MIFF 2010 review: Blank City

27 Jul

Poised between the decline of the 60s cultural revolution and the rise of digital technology in the late 80s and 90s, the downtown scene in New York of the 70s and 80s is fast becoming regarded as the last drinks of modern America.

The east side of New York was a dying city; buildings were abandoned, the streets were unsafe,  drugs and crime were everywhere and out of it all, like new leaves sprouting from a burnt tree came a group of artists whose influence is still the lingua franca of cool. It was a time when artists were willing to cross mediums and try new things. As one cultural commentator points out “if you were an artist you were in a band, if you were a musician you would paint, nobody would actually be doing what they were supposed to be able to do”

The cinema of transgression, the subject of Blank City, refers to the early work of artists such as Jim Jarmusch, Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch and Amos Poe who mostly made their first films on stolen super 8 cameras and used friends as actors (including a very young Steve Buscemi).

Despite having read and seen so much about the downtown scene with regsrds to it’s influence on music and art over the years I found myself almost completley ignorant of many of the films discussed and while this meant my concentration wandered at times, I came away with a short list of no wave films I might like to fast forward through one day.

Some of the talking heads in Blank City are more interesting than others but that’s hardly their fault as it’s hard not to sound stale when the NY scene is fast becoming one of the most comprehensively documented subjects around. Having said that if someone could explain once and for all why Lydia Lunch is famous perhaps they can finally stop making these films.




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