The Punk Syndrome (Kovasikajuttu) (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/02/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Hugely entertaining, bittersweet Finnish documentary that's simultaneously inspiring, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jukka Kärkkäinen and J-P Passi, The Punk Syndrome (or Kovasikajuttu, original title fans) is a documentary about Finnish punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (which translates as Pertti Kurikka's Name Day), whose four members all have serious learning disabilities. Adopting an unobtrusive, fly-on-the-wall style throughout, the film focuses primarily on songwriter/guitarist Pertti Kurikka and temper-prone lead singer/songwriter Kari Aalto and follows the band as they squabble, record their first single and play a series of different venues, including a gig in Hamburg and a punk festival.

The Good
Covering similar ground to 2008's Heavy Load, The Punk Syndrome is hugely entertaining from start to finish, thanks to its four immensely likeable subjects and their frankly inspirational playing ability. Their songs are pretty catchy too, with Kari and Pertti both using their music as an outlet for their anger and frustration over a variety of issues.

For example, Kari has a song about being forced to have a pedicure that goes: ‘Fuckin' pedicurists!/Why do they exist?/I don't understand/I don't understand’ (this is immediately followed by a hilarious sequence where Kari does indeed go for a pedicure and then thoroughly enjoys it, collapsing into infectious laughter as his feet get ticklish).

Directors Jukka Kärkkäinen and J-P Passi do an excellent job of balancing the tone of the film, meandering from joyful moments like the excited afterglow of a successful gig to scenes of broad comedy (Sami entering a strong man competition and his trousers falling down) and sequences that are deeply upsetting, such as Pertti revealing that his mother died in hospital and no-one bothered to tell him or a heartbreaking scene where Toni (who has Down’s Syndrome) visits a girl he obviously likes and it turns out she has a boyfriend.

The Great
No rockumentary would be complete without the obligatory scenes of band members falling out and then making up again and The Punk Syndrome duly delivers on that front too, in quietly moving fashion. Even the scene where the band excitedly handle their first single has a strong air of Spinal Tap/Anvil about it (‘I did the artwork’, boasts Pertti, proudly, of a crudely drawn pair of stick figures).

On top of that, it's impossible to watch the film without concluding that Finland has a much more enlightened attitude to its disabled population than Great Britain does; indeed, if it wasn't for the frequent swearing and occasional full-frontal male nudity, there'd be a strong case for showing this film to disabled children everywhere.

Worth seeing?
The Punk Syndrome is a hugely enjoyable, frequently hilarious and genuinely inspirational documentary that is well worth seeking out. It would also make a great double bill with 2008's Heavy Load. Highly recommended.

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The Punk Syndrome (Kovasikajuttu) (tbc)
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Content updated: 11/12/2017 19:15

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