Just what exactly is Punk in modern society? It’s a question posed by Vivienne Westwood and son Joseph Corré in this new documentary. Sadly, the film never seems to find an answer as egos and hypocrisy drown out the discourse.
The main narrative surrounds Corré’s protest in 2016, where he burned around £5m of his own punk memorabilia. Eventually framed as a climate change protest, there are also hints of disdain at the commodification of Punk, and some suggestion of a swipe at his late father, Malcolm McLaren, who left Corré out of his will.
Through the many conversations and painful dramatic segments where children decry capitalism, what happened to Punk becomes clear: it’s very hard to be anti-establishment when you’re rich.
Vivienne Westwood retroactively distances herself from the movement and scowls at a credit card with Never Mind The Bollocks album cover on it. Her point, about Punk going from rebellion to brand, is less easy to swallow when considering she owns a fashion empire worth tens of millions, and provided gowns for this past weekend’s MET Gala, the very height of excess and privilege.
Other figures, such as the delightfully odd singer/Crystal Maze presenter Edward Tudor Pole, wax lyrical about what the movement was and has become. However, the most unintentionally fascinating is Corré himself. A flurry of contradictions, he’s seen on Channel 4 news criticising Boris Johnson for allegedly burning £50 notes in front of homeless people as a student. Regardless of his intentions, you have to wonder whether the very wealthy founder of Agent Provocateur burning millions in artefacts is any different?
Wake Up Punk is best viewed as the story of a man trying to make his mark in a part of history he was born into. Even then, it’s only mildly diverting as great rebels of the past are seen as oblivious to the irony of their present. Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten famously told a concert crowd “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Anyone looking for something meaningful here may be asking the same thing.