Dirty Old Town: A Low-Budget Ode to No-Budget NY


Just as sidewalk wackos aren’t being completely gentrified out of downtown anytime soon, so the post-post-Scorsese hangout Village indie survives, in the shape of this communal micro-riff of castoffs and fermented Bowery tang, getting an airing for a single day at BAM. At first, the potential for a cliché spume is high, as the impulsively dressed, high-energy street-corner eccentrics spit “dees” and “dems.” But the restlessly fragmented narrative settles on Billy Leroy of Houston Street’s Billy’s Antiques & Props, playing a version of himself as he wrassles with his landlord, the local Dominican gangstas, a psycho cop on suspension (a Liotta-ish Scott Dillin), and a come-on street waif (the kinda awesome Janell Shirtcliff) who brings Billy more tsuris by selling him a stolen bronze bust of Hitler. (The soundtrack, from the Dead Skeletons, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Chelsea Crowell, etc., is never less than rousing.) More entranced by the street fauna than the story (even touching down at the San Gennaro feast), directors Jenner Furst and Daniel Levin go for montaged ambience, and Levin’s lyrical camerawork limns a beguiling, modestly Wong Kar-wai–ish rhapsody out of very little. When Levin’s lens is focused on Shirtcliff’s unwashed hair and spectral eyes, the film grabs hold of something sweet and sad.