INXS and a Paean to Excess

Saskia Post and Michael Hutchence in Dogs in Space

The “Don’t Knock the Rock” series at Cinefamily (every Thursday in July) continues this week with a late-’70s Australian-punk double feature. INXS front man Michael Hutchence stars in Richard Lowenstein’s Dogs in Space, a period piece made in 1986 dramatizing the filmmaker’s own circa-’78 days living in a suburban Melbourne punk squat, steeped in the sounds of Nick Cave, the Primitive Calculators and Gang of Four. The latter band’s antimonogamy chant “Anthrax” backgrounds one exemplary sprawling scene; their trademark fatalism over the conflict between political idealism and personal pleasure infects the entire film. Music-video director Lowenstein (he did “Need You Tonight/Mediate,” the INXS clip that ripped off the cue cards from “Subterranean Homesick Blues”) applies then-trendy production values (think Less Than Zero) to a rambling, Altmanesque non-narrative. His Steadicam moves in and out of flophouse rooms, stealing snatches of conversation about Skylab and the sad state of society, often lingering on junkie lovers played by Hutchence and Saskia Post. It all builds to a classic rock-film cautionary climax, but does so with style: The “love in a glowing limousine” O.D. set to Iggy Pop’s “Endless Sea” belongs above Trainspotting’s “Perfect Day” sequence in the pantheon of hallucinatory movie rock-bottoms. Dogs’ halcyonic romanticization of a grimy paradise lost would never be made today (see: heroin-induced vomiting as foreplay), but its earnestness is almost charming enough to make a cynic forget that the lead actor in this film became a world-famous rock star who hanged himself, only to have his bandmates replace him with a soundalike found via reality TV. The film screens with We’re All Livin’ on Dog Food, a rapid-fire doc that goes behind the scenes of both Dogs in Space and the “Little Bands” music scene that inspired it. Part Time Punks DJ Michael Stock spins before and after the movies.

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