Blank City: A Self-Defeating User-Friendly Primer on the 'No Wave' Science


Blank City
Directed by Celine Danhier
Opens April 6, IFC Center

Blank City is a self-defeating user-friendly primer on a group of films whose aura was enhanced by the fact that one had to brave scenester gatekeepers to find them. A loose history of underground movies from the hybridized gallery-art/loft-rock/filmmaking scene that coalesced in downtown NYC in the ’70s and early ’80s, in punk’s aftermath, Celine Danhier’s chronology begins with Amos Poe’s Unmade Beds (1976) and ends with the rise of MTV, real estate, Wall Street, AIDS, or whatever other external factor is to take the blame for the dry-up. Along the way, there are glimpses of the CBGB-era films of Poe, Eric Mitchell, and James Nares, and the ’80s “Cinema of Transgression,” which encompasses the work of Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, and David Wojnarowicz. Nothing in this assemblage of clips will convince anyone not already sold on the enduring artistic importance of these movements beyond the world bounded by 14th Street and the Holland Tunnel. Danhier has made a lifestyle-nostalgia oral history after the popular Please Kill Me model, but gets none of the tall tales and internecine grudging that made that tome so entertaining. Nor does she once interrogate a parade of interviewees as they retell the legend of guttered Olde NYC from upmarket contemporary surroundings—a decision that ironically shows lickspittle respect for a scene marked by youthful home rule.

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i stopped by ifc on a rainy saturday this past weekend and have to admit that i enjoyed this film more than anything i've seen in a long while. i dragged along 2 friends who knew nothing about the music or filmmakers from this time, and they too were radically impressed.

obviously the director has the utmost respect for this scene and those who emerged from it. the film was meticulously researched and if you've read any interviews with the director online, she has spent about 4 years making this film. that is quite a feat.

in addition, the way she approaches these film movements enables the subject matter to be appreciated by a wider audience than just the handful of people in it or who might already know what cinema of transgression or no wave was.

blank city is a must see in my book.


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