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Blank City - E2 Films - DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 1
Written by Jay Creepy   
Monday, 10 September 2018
Severed Cinema review of Blank City from E2 Films


Directed by: Celine Danhier
Written by: Celine Danhier
Produced by: Vanessa Roworth, Vincent Savino, Aviva Wishnow and others
Cinematography by: Ryo Murakami, Peter Szollsi
Music by: Various
Edited by:Vanessa Roworth
Cast: John Waters, Nick Zedd, Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, James Chance, Amos Poe, Ann Magnuson, Lizzie Borden, Jim Jarmusch, Charlie Ahern, Lydia Lunch, Daze, Fab 5 Freddy, John Lurie.
Year: 2010
Language: English
Color: Color/B&W
Country: USA
Runtime: 1hr 32mins

Distributor: E2 Films

I am partial to a dirty gritty ‘70s or ‘80s NYC dark alley movie, more so a documentary which shows so much of what was happening at the time regardless of the subject matter. One of the best I had seen thus so far until I watched the one I am reviewing was 80 Blocks From Tiffany's made in ‘79 and covered the gangs of the Bronx, etcetera. Captivating footage and interviews all the way.

So I had kept Blank City nestled in my collection for some time only waiting for the right moment and the correct mood to watch it. After finishing, I knew it had to be on Severed Cinema. Why? Well, not so much the footage, even though sleazy peep shows and unwelcoming near to collapse buildings are quite the norm, but the actual subject matter covers such a range of experimental and sometimes utterly surreal films made in a certain time period for almost zero cost and a lot of love. The Cinema of Transgression and No Wave – two categories to look up in case you've never heard of these genres. There's some great faces being interviewed in this one, a who's who of cult names like Lydia Lunch, Debbie Harry (she starred in some very early Amos Poe thingys) Jim Jarmusch, Fab 5 Freddy, right to bloody Steve Buscemi, and John Waters. If reading those names doesn't give you tingles in the lower regions of your body, then press further and get the tissues ready.

These kinds of films aren't something you watch, you kind of experience them. I've seen a handful of Nick Zedd and Jim Jarmusch earlies in my time and they stick with you like you've trudged the litter covered paths, glancing over your shoulder at any heard noise.

“The beauty of New York at the time was it was a magnet for not only artists who came from other areas, outcasts... but true freaks.... real weirdo's,” says Lydia Lunch in the extended scenes extras, “It was just all kinds of fuckin' weirdo's man. That to me was inspirational, ‘cause it was like an insane asylum.”

Over the beginning credits, sound-bites from people later to be interviewed go along the lines of even if you had no money, just make your movie. Everyone's life is a movie waiting to be filmed. The man who could be called the originator of this movement, Amos Poe, explains how it all began for him. From photography to being stuck in Czechoslovakia as the Russians invaded, then returning to NYC and seeing a Super 8 camera for the first time. His love started from there. The comparison is to Punk Rock, as a way to remove yourself from the blandness and starchy dreariness of life at the time. Wobbly direction, usually black and white, dreadful audio, but these movies were made, and found an audience. Slowly, mind you, it all began with quick films of local bands such as The Ramones and all the footage being edited to a movie length within 24 hours (studio hire) in which a lot of speed snorting helped. “We never had any money, which in a way was why it was always so inventive.”

Suddenly it all exploded due in part to a bloke who succeeded in obtaining a load of Super 8 cameras with sound and selling them cheap. As Steve Buscemi says, not just in film did it all take off, but in music, art, a whole lot more. Underground New York was everywhere to a cult crowd. The whole point was to move away from the mainstream and have an identity. The fact NY was near ruin and bankruptcy aided all of the creators in finding cheap accommodation and places to shoot their movies. With this came a sense of comradeship as the creators shared equipment and ideas to make their movies. “You could make a film, and then show it the next week.” says Lydia Lunch.

It wasn't all good of course. Legions of rats, cockroaches, muggings, and violence, plus the infamous blackout of '77 are all topics covered. Later on the film turns to the spread of AIDS and drugs, but not just yet.

Nothing stopped the landslide of narrative films. Documentary feel, one person being followed films, to crime and kidnapping flicks, music and Hip Hop, even a great one almost 'convincingly' set in ancient Rome. 

So we profile Jim, Lydia, and many others as the scene constructs itself from ground zero then soon after into the media. The characters and drugs become far more diverse as the years go by, as does the ways of filming. It didn't matter who you were, how you looked, whether you could act or play an instrument properly. You could be talentless to the mainstream, but to this collective you were part of the gang. We also get an insight into the rise of Jean-Michel Basquiat from street artist to darling of the media. Charlie Ahern and Fab 5 Freddy take us on a neat journey through Charlie's early flicks including a gritty street Karate flick called, The Deadly Art of Survival, all the way into Wild Style.

Of course, when some of the folks entered the mainstream, the values they held so dear were forgotten and they became seduced by the glitter. Others remained in the rubble, happy to live beside their art canvasses. However, as New York changed and moved, so the movement ended.

Blank City takes you on a tour of the area and the people, whilst name dropping the infamous of that time capsule such as Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono. It exists to catch the attention of anybody into the underground art scene of the 1970s. Showcasing the genesis of mostly unheard of classics like Downtown 81, Rome 78, War is Menstrual Envy, Wild Style, They Eat Scum and Permanent Vacation, whilst glimpsing so many others – The Fly, Multiple Maniacs, Goodbye 42nd Street... so much more.

Quality does vary on each clip courtesy of the budget and camera that was used, and the sound can go up and down, but that's expected. The interviews are crisp, filled with information and aren't dull. In fact the whole documentary and nostalgia value is a must for anyone’s collection.

To quote Jim when speaking about making his early films, “No one's gonna see it, so let's make a film we like.” That sums up true heart and true art.




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 Aspect Ratio: 16:9
 Region: PAL R2
 Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo

 – Theatrical Trailer
 – Extended Scenes and Outtakes
 – Interview with Celine Dahnier


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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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