New York has not always been the safe, overpriced playground for the rich. Sure, cities change but comparatively NYC is now a child’s wonderland compared to what it was in the seventies. Left to crumble into both financial and physical ruin by president Ford, who refused to help the city pay off its debts, lower New York City was sent into a state of heavy decline. Times were bleak. The Lower East Side and Alphabet city were relentless war zones. Buildings were reduced to piles of rubble. What is now Tompkins Square Park was then a virtual shantytown built by squatters. Drugs and corrupt landlords ran rampant. The population of rats was disturbing. Underneath the grime and debris a brilliant gem of an art scene was bursting at the seams. A group of rowdy and groundbreaking individuals were waiting to show the world what their cinematic lives were really like. The film features interviews with Lydia Lunch, Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, Thurston Moore, Jim Jarmusch and so many more. It even goes on to discuss bands and musical acts like Patti Smith and Television, The Ramones and Blondie, whose shows these filmmakers began recording with any camera they could basically get their hands on. These kids were aching to create. Blank City defiantly covers all the bases when it comes to the crazy, whacked out sprawling art world that was New York in the seventies and eighties. However, do not be mistaken, it is not your typical film about the early days of NYC art. This piece speaks about the movies being made, the rare underground films that were shot on super 8 and 35mm movie cameras. It takes you into a world you may not have ever seen or even heard of before. With rare glimpses into movies like Downtown 81, They Eat Scum and The Right Side of my Brain, the film makers and “actors” discuss the off the wall history of independent film. They examine it’s campy past and look forward into its mysterious future. An added bonus is the overwhelming female presence in both the early years and in this movie. The documentary boasts female director, Celine Danhier and showcases enormous helpings of female talent through out the entire film.
For example, Lydia Lunch, is a very relevant and personal favorite of mine. Not only a ground breaking artist but, additionally a fantastic front woman in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. She also lent her name to starring in whacked out art films like The Wild World of Lydia Lunch and Fingered.Women were also behind the camera during this groundbreaking period. Directors like Vivienne Dick and Lizzie Borden, were women who were speaking out, they were making movies, and they were shocking people.
I left the theatre feeling a little weird, like I had just arrived back home after some crazy glitter and drug filled vacation back in time but, I was also strangely inspired. Armed with a list of movies and directors I looked around at present day New York City and couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. How could I change that? Creation, the do it yourself kind. You can see what all the fuss is about for yourself at the IFC theatre on W 4th street, for show times and ticketing information visit their site. For those of you who dwell in other cities than New York you can click here to view the trailer and find out when Blank City will be in a city near you.