World-traveling art-bohemia chronicler Peter Sempel calls Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory (at Anthology Film Archives through May 21) a “psychodocumentarymusicfilm”—which is at least 25 percent accurate. Never the most purposeful of provocateurs, the nunsexmonkrocker has long gotten by on her scattershot freakazoid allure. In this willfully garbled valentine, the filmmaker, devoted to the point of submission, indulges his mistress’s voice by amplifying it to an earsplitting screech. Sempel keeps talking heads and performance footage to a minimum, and instead encourages the exhaustingly game über-diva to put on a show for the camera. And so Nina frolics with a toy snake, strums an acoustic guitar, wades into a river, dons a series of wigs, contemplates the meaning of colors, discusses her spirituality, sticks out her tongue, hangs out with her celebrity friends (George Clinton, Udo Kier, Wim Wenders), and delivers short-circuiting monologues (one seamless thought process somehow involves PETA, dandruff, and Gaultier sunglasses). In-your-face as it is, Sempel’s Hag-iography fades into a gurgle of white noise long before its 90-minute running time is up. On May 22, Anthology will screen Sempel’s latest, Lemmy, a self-described “cinemaveritemotörartpunkfilm” on the Motörhead frontman.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 14, 2002