Blank City (2011)
Blank City (2011)
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Critic Reviews for Blank City
Celine Danhier combines talking heads with a flood of Super-8 and 16-millimeter film clips to create this entertaining 2010 documentary about the explosion of punk energy that propelled New York City's art, music, and cinema underground.
As maddeningly undisciplined as the movie community she's exploring, but it still stands as a worthy historical document of NYC's recent past and the birth of a new way of making films.
As well as unearthing flavourful clips from films only determined cineastes have seen (War Is Menstrual Envy, You Killed Me First), French filmmaker CÚline Danhier has reassembled many of the era's crucial players.
This doc is interesting and worthy, but it is unlikely to send you seeking most of the films sampled in it. That was then, this is now, and it was fun while it lasted.
The biggest shortcoming of "Blank City" is that, despite its vivid portrait of the time period, we never get much sense of what the actual movies are like.
Audience Reviews for Blank City
Documentary covering the "no-wave" film movement in NYC circa 1977-1984, focusing on Jim Jarmusch, the Cinema of Transgression, and the connections to performance art and punk rock. Very informative if you're not aware of this period; very few of these amateurish art movies are ever screened (after the breakthrough film STRANGER THAN PARADISE, the next most famous example of the genre may just be GEEK MAGGOT BINGO!) Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi and John Waters (of course) are also interviewed.
"Blank City" is a spirited and informative documentary about a group of low budget filmmakers operating in New York City in the 70's and 80's. While I could point out that the documentary could have used a better organizational and chronological structure, I think at the same time that would have clashed with the punk music like aesthetic of the movies that were made using 8mm cameras that were bought, stolen or borrowed.(I'm no legal expert but I am pretty sure that the statute of limitations has expired on all the financing via petty larceny.) Of them, some of the names might seem familiar to the casual observer like Jim Jarmusch and Steve Buscemi. And it admittedly did take a few minutes to remember where I recognized Richard Kern, now mostly known for nude photography, from. So, it is perhaps ironic that success and money killed this nascent movement, especially the gentrifying of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, home turf for so many of these artists.
"Blank City" may seem alien to viewers who don't have an affinity with punk culture, but this documentary is an engrossing look at the late-'70s, underground cinema that rose alongside New York's No Wave/CBGB's musical movements. Building on Andy Warhol's "Everybody is a director, everybody is a star" ethic, a clique of rebellious street characters grabbed Super 8 cameras and began making movies. The results were raw, amateurish and often controversial, but had a refreshing directness and lack of artifice. Few of the discussed works are well-known or readily available today (prime exceptions: Susan Seidelman's "Smithereens" and Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise"), so "Blank City" is bound to include fresh information for even hardcore film buffs. Filmmakers like Richard Kern, Eric Mitchell, Amos Poe, Beth B, Nick Zedd, Charlie Ahearn and Vivienne Dick are featured, and participating actors such as Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry, Lydia Lunch and John Lurie are interviewed. Thurston Moore (inevitably), James Chance, Ann Magnuson, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell and John Waters add further soundbites.
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