DIRECTED BY: Celine Danhier
FEATURING: Amos Poe, Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, John Waters, Deborah Harry
PLOT: This documentary examines the “No Wave” and “Cinema of Transgression” film
movements and their connections to performance art and punk rock in New York City circa 1977-1985.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s purely a supplemental feature for your weird movie education, giving background information on a significant underground DIY film movement.
COMMENTS: “It felt like our lives were movies,” says Debbie Harry early on in Blank City. “It was very cinematic.” Perhaps this explains Celine Danhier’s choice, which earned her criticism in some quarters, to place the focus more on the filmmakers than the films in this documentary. Based on the No Wave film clips which illustrate the story, this was the correct angle to take on the material. Most of the “greatest hits” Super-8 highlights consist of grungy hipsters smoking cigarettes in grainy black and white, or walking around dirty East Village streets in washed-out, home-movie color. By contrast, the Bohemian lifestyle the filmmakers fondly recall—sharing $50 apartments in burnt out tenements with cockroaches, shooting on the street on the spur of the moment whenever they could assemble a crew, sneaking into locations to film without permission or permits, and heading off to CBGB’s after a hard day of scraping together footage to drink and dance the night away while a pre-fame Blondie or Television played on stage—is a lot more interesting. The No Wave scene flourished during New York City’s downbeat phase, when the burg was deep in debt, full of abandoned buildings, and riddled by crime and heroin abuse (basically, the New York of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver). The city in the late Seventies was nasty and dangerous, but for nouveau-beatnik types it offered cheap rent, cheaper Super-8 film stock, and the company of like-minded free spirits. Although it grew out of the ashes of the previous New York avant-garde exemplified by Andy Warhol and Jack (Flaming Creatures) Smith, movement godfather Amos Poe explains that this wave rebelled against the Continue reading CAPSULE: BLANK CITY (2010)