Capping an Anthology retro this week, San Francisco’s Jon Moritsugu has entered the autumn—the Rocktober?—of his nihilism. In the new Scumrock, crises and breakdowns abound: Roxxy (Amy Davis, who also lensed and co-scripted) autocratically drives her noisester band, the Puerto Ricans, into a disastrous gig, and Miles (Kyp Malone) attempts to wrangle a pseudo-British cinematographer (Victor of Aquitaine) and a well-meaning student producer (Courtney Stephens) into realizing his artsy, half-assed cinema of syringes, pussy willows, and boobs.
Working with no budget as usual, Moritsugu trains his Hi-8 camcorder on the cold hands of time, looking with a blitzkrieg eye at aging scenesters and the anti-nostalgia of approaching (or denying) 30. The sub-digital warped look is largely the point. The musty and giddily overexposed sheen—often shot against the sun, characters don’t so much enter a scene as materialize and then flare out—and sublime, heartsick vignettes from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone override the grizzle-punk first heard on the soundtrack.
Does punk die or self-deconstruct, like Moritsugu’s on-screen Q&A? Is Scumrock punk or something post? Who cares? By the end, when death, nature, shit jobs, and school seem to be all that’s left for the characters, Moritsugu’s insouciant mangling of the undie scene—which has never taken anything, including punk’s built-in death drive, totally straight—makes Scumrock gripping, strangely beautiful, and poignant.