Spare, rough around the edges and unsentimentally melancholy, Lech Kowalski's portrait of Ramones bassist Douglas Colvin better known as Dee Dee Ramone is drawn from an interview Kowalski shot in 1992. Kowalski arranged the session for Born to Lose, a documentary about Johnny Thunders. Thunders, a member of both pioneering New York glam-punk band the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, succumbed to a fatal overdose in 1991; he and Dee Dee were dope buddies and musical rivals who ran in the same ever-widening circles that extended out from Manhattan's then-seedy Lower East Side. But the interview took on its own meandering life. Dee Dee, then dope-free and 38 years old he looked older wound up recounting the history of his many tattoos, each inextricably linked with his memories of the wild days of the '80s punk scene. "There's all these bathtub stories," he sighs, then backs into another tale of a dope fiend who overdosed, turned blue and was unceremoniously dumped into a tub to recover or die. Dee Dee wrote many Ramones classics, including "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," but his only extended recollection of writing or performing revolves around the heroin-inspired "Chinese Rock," which the rest of the band rejected. Songs about sniffing glue were one thing, Dee Dee recalls Johnny Ramone saying. Songs about scoring smack were something else. "Chinese Rock" instead became a signature song for the Heartbreakers (the Ramones eventually recorded it in 1980) and the documentary's title comes from its lyrics. Dee Dee is a loopy but appealing raconteur despite the sameness of his stories steal, cheat, lie to friends, cop, shoot up, repeat but the film's appeal is limited to serious fans of the band and the New York punk scene. Kowalski focusses so narrowly on Dee Dee's reminsences (punctuated with occasional snippets of 8mm concert footage whose roughness sums up the early punk aesthetic) that there's no history or context, with the exception of whatever knowledge the viewer brings. Dee Dee's account of a life spent abusing drugs, cleaning up and relapsing, described in his harsh Queens accent and punctuated by rueful giggles, is thrown into a harshly poignant light by his 2002 death of a heroin overdose.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: Spare, rough around the edges and unsentimentally melancholy, Lech Kowalski's portrait of Ramones bassist Douglas Colvin better known as Dee Dee Ramone is drawn from an interview Kowalski shot in 1992. Kowalski arranged the session for Born t… (more)