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New York Beat Movie (Downtown 81) (2001)



Average Rating: 6.7/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.



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Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 1,817

My Rating

Movie Info

Originally shot in 1980-81, this film, directed by Edo Bertoglio, is a rare real-life snapshot of ultra-hip subculture of post-punk era Manhattan. Starring renowned artist Jean Michel Basquiat (who died in 1988 at age 27) and featuring such early Village hipsters as Melle Mel, John Lurie, and Lydia Lunch, the film is a bizarre elliptical urban fairytale. The film opens with Jean (Basquiat) in the hospital with an undisclosed ailment. After checking out, he happens upon an enigmatic woman,


Drama, Art House & International, Comedy

Glenn O'Brien

Aug 27, 2002

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All Critics (25) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (6) | DVD (2)

A fascinating if fragmented, dreamlike look at the downtown art-music-fashion scene of a yeasty, creative era.

March 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
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A crudely poetic inventory of the people and places about to rock pop culture.

February 1, 2002
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Performances by DNA and the Plastics alone are worth the price of admission.

November 2, 2001 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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Gives us a glimpse of the city as it was, suggesting that there was something revolutionary, even inspiring, about those days of not-so yore.

September 20, 2001 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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It captures the youthful excitement of a burgeoning creative movement.

July 20, 2001
Mr. Showbiz
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It's as a documentary that Downtown 81 is most successful.

July 13, 2001 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Although Basquiat is effortlessly charismatic, he isn't given much to do; the film leans heavily on narration, much of which crosses the line separating poetic from pretentious.

June 30, 2014 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

Invaluable because it catches the sights, sounds and moods of a city that are of a bygone era.

September 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's not a great film, but rather disjointed as nothing really makes sense. But considering this is the only glimpse one would ever see of Basquiat before he was discovered by Andy Warhol, this film is somewhat of a masterpiece.

May 13, 2003 Full Review Source:

It's like being present for the opening of a time capsule.

October 18, 2001 Full Review Source: IFilm

Director Edo Bertoglio and writer-producer Glenn O'Brien gave [Basquiat] little to do but walk around and look pretty.

October 18, 2001
New Times

a sweet, harmless vision that never quite overcomes the lack of story...

August 24, 2001 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A paean to funky neighborhoods before gentrification and gritty, neon-flecked streets before SUVs.

July 24, 2001 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

A film of considerable pleasure, not least the archival footage and evocation of a city and individuals fair brimming with life.

July 24, 2001 Full Review Source:

As a piece of cinematic art, this meandering, shambolic film isn't much to speak of, but as a time capsule, it's priceless.

July 13, 2001 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Presents a smug, self-satisfied vision of its own world.

July 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Citysearch

Presents the underground culture and brings its pretentiousness along with it.

July 10, 2001 Full Review Source:

Basquiat himself is handsome but vapid, a sounding board for philosophical drivel that gives tortured, penniless artists a bad name.

June 28, 2001 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for New York Beat Movie (Downtown 81)

"Downtown 81" wants to be transcendent and wants to the cognoscenti on art and culture. I'm not sure if it achieves just that (it probably doesn't,) but it does manage to capture the small pockets of culture in Manhattan that revolves around music, visual arts, fashion, etc. If anything the film is a fascinating time capsule that looks like a documentary and has the ultra-left ideas and attitudes of the people in the place imbedded in the screenplay.

As the film progresses it gets more and more avant-garde, and like the hip drugged youth in the film whose ambitions only go as far as their ecstacy/ketamine/THC-suppressed drive for change, the film also feels as if it nearly loses sight of its original ambition and scope, especially in the 2nd and 3rd act. The film embraces its disjointedness and converts itself into, what might as well be, a compilation of electrifying, kinetic music videos, as inane and aimless they may be.

But, at the same time it is an impeccable showcase of the area's culture and the people whom it belongs to. Other than the premise, which is still somewhat interesting, most notably with the charming ending, some choices in editing and camera angles are questionable. At best the film, which is really just an embodiment of one idea after the other, is moderately interesting. Perhaps amusing or a pleasant distraction. Just don't expect it to be nearly as enriching as it pretends to be.
July 4, 2012
Edward Stymest

Super Reviewer

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