Part of Music City Mondays.
Scripted by writer and Warhol associate Glenn O’Brien and directed by Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio, the duo began filming graffiti innovator and no wave music artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1981 just as he’d begun to exhibit his paintings. The trio hit the streets of lower Manhattan to make a film about their bombed-out Bohemia but the film languished, incomplete due to money problems. Resurrected and assembled for release in 2000, DOWNTOWN 81 follows Basquiat attempting to sell a painting while hustling for a place to sleep. The footage aged into a valuable document of an oft romanticized artist who lived on the margins of a crazy creative ferment. Featuring musical performances by DNA, James White and the Blacks, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. With appearances by Debbie Harry, Fab Five Freddy, John Lurie, and an extinct version of Manhattan in all its mangy glory.
“Shot as NEW YORK BEAT in 1980-81 but completed for release only [in 2000], DOWNTOWN 81 emerges as a nostalgic portrait of pre-Giuliani Manhattan, an unruly place full of garbage, graffiti, rubble-strewn lots, unlicensed after-hours clubs and highly idealistic kids eager to make their mark as avant-garde artists and musicians.” —Dave Kehr, New York Times (2001) “Preserves a unique urban landscape that no longer exists and was rarely filmed… Functions as a terrific primer on New York’s underground music scene as it existed at that particular moment.” —Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve “DOWNTOWN 81 captures that New York moment when punk, emerging rap, art school cool and the East Village art and music scenes were at their creative best. There are some great walk-on parts and terrific live music, including Basquiat's own band, Grey.” —Adrian Searle, Guardian
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