When grime was good

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

‘IT FELT LIKE our lives were movies,” says Deb­bie Harry of the early filthy days of No Wave. The sur­viv­ing gang’s all here for this’s mar­velous doc­u­men­tary his­tory of the ma­raud­ing bands of po­ets, punks and film-mak­ers who de­scended upon New York’s East Vil­lage in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

And they’ve brought their home movies. Be­tween in­ter­views, Blank City forms an ar­chive for the Blank Gen­er­a­tion’s many 8mm and 16mm films. In­spired by Warhol and Cas­savetes, ev­ery­one was shoot­ing around the meaner streets of NY’S less salu­bri­ous al­pha­bet postal codes. “Tech­nique was hated,” re­calls John Lurie. “Mu­si­cians were paint­ing, painters were mak­ing mu­sic and films.”

In this gar­ret-fab­u­lous world, prog rock was dead and the stu­dio sys­tem was sub­ject to ero­sion: “Get­ting a 16mm film into New York the­atres”, con­curs di­rec­tor Jim Jar­musch, was as “easy as scor­ing heroin.”

Di­rec­tor Cé­line Danhier re­frains from ed­i­to­ri­al­is­ing and la­bel­ing, so view­ers will just have to gid­dily free­wheel through an as­sort­ment that brings to­gether Basquiat’s art, Lizzie Bor­den’s sci-fe-min­ism, Tele­vi­sion, The Ra­mones, Steve Buscemi and Nick Zedd’s Cinema of Tran­gres­sion.

Hap­pily, vet­er­ans are on hand to pro­vide the con­text – “We came out of this destruc­tion, this very empty city,” says Thurston Moore – and out­line the sig­nif­i­cance. “No one was hold­ing back,” says Ly­dia Lunch. “They were telling the ugly, naked truth as they lived it. That’s why the Cinema of Trans­gres­sion and No Wave had this power.”

Blank City is the lovely, loud dis­so­nant film they de­serve.

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