"DOGS IN SPACE," a movie about Australian middle-class punks, is watchable as it is aimless. In an extended visit with a squalid houseful of punks, writer/director Richard Lowenstein revels endlessly in their drugged, anarchistic abandon. But he takes the story nowhere. It's as if he drank too much at the party and preferred to lie where he was until morning.
At least cinematographer Andrew De Groot got up and moved about, providing "Dogs" with its visual flair. His mobile camera swoops in and out of the action, usually from a low angle. You think you're watching through the eyes of a manic munchkin. Which is appropriate: Life's one eternal megaparty, the housemates lurching and reeling from room to room, yukking it up when their Volkswagen topples over in a crash, shoplifting at 7-Eleven, dancing at the local punk club, shooting up, throwing up . . . oh -- and setting fire to the television.
Lowenstein's circular story, which is accompanied wall-to-wall with infectious, pounding music, allows no real central characters among the Young and the Pointless; those who come closest are Sam, Anna, Tim and a catatonic girl without a name who watches everything. Sam (Michael Hutchence, from the band INXS) is a creature who hides under new wave bangs and a blanket (imagine "Peanuts' " Linus punked out, strung out and living in Australia). When he's not grunting, shooting up or trying to sleep with his girlfriend Anna (Saskia Post -- the lovely, the wasted), he's singing with his punk band called, natch, Dogs in Space.
Anna thinks Sam's the greatest thing since shellacked Wonderbread. She likes him so much, she shoots heroin too. Tim's also in the Dog band, playing his malfunctioning synthesizer and throwing verbal barbs around his punk-coiffed head. And the silent girl has run away from her Mom -- apparently to find more quality time to stare into space.
There's a certain midnight-movie attraction to Lowenstein's unencumbered madness in "Dogs." Until it all gets encumbered, that is. He tacks on an ending almost worthy of Nancy Reagan -- if she'd stayed this long with the movie. Suddenly there's a Just Say No consequence to this Kind of Lifestyle. It changes the whole cast of the film (suddenly we've been watching a message picture), and it doesn't conclude the movie so much as rip the plug out.
DOGS IN SPACE (Unrated) --
At the West End 1-4.