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Rooftop Cinema: Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché at Madison Museum Of Contemporary Art
August 11, 2022 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm$7
As with years of recent Rooftop Cinema past, the outdoor series tends to favor an annual explication of an iconoclastic musician or groundbreaking movement in punk or the avant-garde. Past year’s selections have included Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present in 2019 to Desolation Center in 2020. This year’s Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is a multifaceted portrait of the titular British-Somali poet and vocalist (born Marianne Elliott-Said), who fronted X-Ray Spex in late 1970s London.
While Poly’s DIY flair for fashion and distinctively defiant punk rock influenced riot grrrl acts in the 1990s and Afro-punk in the 2000s, this documentary ultimately revolves around a family affair, as it’s co-directed by the famed singer’s daughter Celeste Bell (with increasingly prolific documentarian Paul Sng).
In the opening seconds of the film, Bell considers a question that’s often asked of her about Poly being a good mother. Over the course of 90 minutes, Bell attempts to answer and reconcile the faces of public and private life. In reconstructing and retracing Poly Styrene’s artistic roots through artifacts that predate Bell while simultaneously sifting through early memories (or those made in her absence) as a child, this biography documentary becomes a surprisingly psychological and uncommonly comprehensive look at identity. —Grant Phipps
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