Subculture Film Fest Alert: Video Punks, Drunken Hippies & Dangerous Robots

It's amazing to realize how many historical subcultures San Francisco has hosted over the years. And while a full tally of them all would probably fill an entire boring-ass academic journal, YBCA has a better way to take in the doings of cultural rebels past. An awesome-looking new film series that kicks off this week, “Freaks, Punks, Skanks & Cranks” will explore offbeat communities and personalities, including do-it-yourself punk, egomaniacal Eurotrash, and eccentric comedy through four films that start Thursday and run through Feb. 27.

Opening the series are two films from Target Video, the San Francisco outfit headed by Joe Rees that chronicled the early punk and hardcore scenes before MTV was even a glint in some greedy producer's eye. Rees will be at YBCA Thursday for the kickoff screening of San Francisco Punks and Beyond, which culls highlights from the Target archive, including performances by The Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Iggy Pop, and the Mutants. On Saturday, Target Video will also be presenting film clips of Survival Research Laboratories, the venerable local performance art group whose destructive robots produce “the most dangerous shows on earth.”

Moving on from early punk, the series takes an interesting turn with the 2000 film Scarlet Diva by Asia Argento, a movie billed as “perhaps the most extreme ego trip ever put on celluloid.” Argento, an Italian actress, sleazed her way into redemption via a sex-filled life of travel and self-destruction… then wrote and filmed a movie about it, which screens on Sunday. Skankery and self-absorption don't sound like subculture manifesto material yet, but they should make for a wild flick (and hey, this decade's just gettin' started.)

No look at SF subcultures would be complete without a dose of hippie life, and the 1968 film Gold — which features drunken flower children and lots of naked writhing in the dust, and shows on Saturday, Feb. 27 — sounds positively psychedelic. With music from the MC5 and Rambling Jack Elliott, plus split-screen shoots and solarized film, this Old West adventure story should remind us all how weird the '60s really were.

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