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Downtown 81

  • Film

Time Out says

Years before Jeffrey Wright starred in Julian Schnabel's posthumous biopic, ill-fated NY artist Jean-Michel Basquiat more or less played himself in this ramshackle portrait of the city's intermingling art and music scene, c. 1981. Basquiat was 19 at the time, yet to have his first show, but he did have his own band Gray (with one Vincent Gallo in the line-up) and he was already using the city streets as a canvas for his graffiti-related art. As he trudges the city sidewalks, Basquiat's an undeniably charismatic figure, the trouble is that this flimsy slice of celluloid hipness doesn't really give him a chance to do an awful lot else. Although shot in 1980-81 by fashion photographer Edo Bertoglio, much of the footage was lost until 1998, when post-production included adding a voice-over for the Basquiat character (courtesy of Slam star Saul Williams). Despite some pretentious narration, there's significant archival interest in the musical contributions from New York No Wavers Arto Lindsay's DNA and punk-funky James White and the Blacks, plus Japanese electro-popsters The Plastics, and prime-time Kid Creole and the Coconuts. It gives good cameo too, with Debbie Harry as a bag lady and some very early rapping from Fab Five Freddie.
Written by TJ

Release Details

  • Duration:75 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Edo Bertoglio
  • Screenwriter:Glenn O'Brien
  • Cast:
    • Jean-Michel Basquiat
    • Anna Schroeder
    • Giorgio Giomelsky
    • Marshall Chess
    • Deborah Harry
    • Arto Lindsay
    • DNA
    • Kid Creole and the Coconuts
    • James White and the Blacks
    • Saul Williams
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