By this point, everybody knows everything about New York's musical vibrance in the '70s and '80s (surly punks, new-wavers and downtown dissonance obsessives peeling the paint off CBGB's walls; outer-borough rappers rockin' beats at block parties). Ditto the decades' seismic art-world quakes, when painters became millionaires by putting street art in Soho galleries. But what about the period's equally fertile underground film scene? Anyone who thinks that the trashy, trippy and totally dynamic work of these out-there auteurs wasn't as significant, ponder a few what-ifs: Jim Jarmusch never makes Stranger than Paradise (bye, modern indie-cinema movement). Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style never acts as a global hip-hop ambassador. The scuzz sin-ema of Richard Kern and Nick Zedd never sets the standard for microbudget DIY shockitude. Still ready to write it off?
Celine Danhier's near-definitive documentary makes the case for Gotham's '70s boho celluloid legacy, tracing the first Super-8 stirrings of No Wave hipsters like Amos Poe, Scott B. and Beth B., and Eric Mitchell to the Reagan era's "cinema of transgression" provocateurs. Names get checked, baby-faced future celebrities like Vincent Gallo and Steve Buscemi make cameos, and various cross-pollinations between below--14th Street mavericks are clarified. But Blank City is more than just a correlative correction; it's a complementary portrait of how, just like Blondie, Basquiat et al., these wasteland mavericks created their own zeitgeist out of urgent desperation and urban decay. Let a thousand scummy, rat-gnawed flowers bloom once again.