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Blank City (Blu-ray Review)

18 Feb, 2012 By: Angelique Flores

Street 2/21/12
Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.1 million
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.

During the 1970s and ’80s an artistic movement known as No Wave was born in New York’s Lower East Side. Blank City gives an intriguing history of this underground scene, focusing mostly on the “Cinema of No Wave.”

At the time, New York City had just gone bankrupt and was dotted with empty buildings, where many of these young filmmakers squatted and shot their low-budget movies on Super 8 cameras. The filmmakers’ lack of funds and lack of training forced an ingenuity and creativity in their filmmaking.

Though No Wave is little known, some well-known talent came out of it. Among the influential No Wavers are filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and John Waters, filmmakers and actors Steve Buscemi and Vincent Gallo, Debby Harry of Blondie, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat — many who speak here on camera about their work and experiences.

The films were made with guerilla tactics and influenced by the music in the scene, Dadaism, drugs and a need to push boundaries and tell the stories of what was going on around them. It’s not really clear what defines film and music as No Wave, but the feel and texture of the scene is definitely palpable here.

Some of the films to come out of the period are Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch), The Foreigner (Amos Poe) and Wild Style (Charlie Ahearn), which documented the nascent hip-hop scene. Blank City includes early footage of many of these films, including scenes of a young Buscemi and Gallo as well as the late Basquiat.

Cinema of No Wave spawned Cinema of Transgression, a more sexual, shocking, in-your-face genre of films also chronicled here, though to a lesser extent, and later also influenced the forthcoming independent film scene.

The extras feature an interview with the film’s director, Céline Danhier, deleted and extended scenes that seemed to be cut only for time, and outtakes.

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