Wake Up Punk review – memorabilia-burning punk progeny fails to check his privilege

This documentary about Joe Corré, the son of Vivienne Westwood and the late Malcolm McLaren, is a strangely listless and unlikable affair

This weirdly peevish and listless documentary defeated my attempts to like it: it’s about Joe Corré, the son of Vivienne Westwood and the late Malcolm McLaren, and the way he publicly burned – back in 2016 – a huge trove of punk memorabilia in his possession said to be worth £5m. Was it really worth £5m? Maybe. And why did Corré torch all this stuff? Was it a protest against the way the punk spirit has been sold out to corporate culture? Or was it Corré’s cry of psychological pain at being cut out of his father’s will, as the film comes close to hinting? Again: maybe.

The other question is, who cares? Eventually the burning was sold to the public as a kind of climate-emergency protest. That is something we can get all get behind, but young people today will understandably be impatient or indifferent about the necrophiliac issue of whether or not “punk” should “wake up”.

The film is on much stronger ground when it gets on to the more interesting question of who are the heirs to punk. Corré and Westwood both think that Julian Assange is a true punk; and whatever you think about Assange, yes, there is something in that. (Punk was also an artistic movement, so maybe the punk heirs are Damien Hirst and the YBA radicals, who are themselves a thing of the past.) But the more valuable post-punks or neo-punks are the climate activists, especially the school-strikers, whose witty, impassioned banners have a punk spirit, although without the nihilism.

Yet the focus of the film isn’t really on them, and it has a series of very tiring (and very McLaren-esque) satirical interludes showing stage-school Dickensian urchins telling each other how all the money in the world is controlled by a small number of people. Hmmm. The film didn’t mention the fact that Corré founded the hugely lucrative Agent Provocateur lingerie chain, which was sold in 2007 to a private equity house. Still, it was good to see the late Jordan (AKA Pamela Rooke), the iconic punk model who cheerfully said Corré could set fire to his own stuff if he wanted, and also that authentically eccentric and English figure Edward Tudor-Pole.

• Wake Up Punk is released on 5 May in cinemas and on 9 May on digital platforms.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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