Blank City (12A)

Directed by Celine Danhier
FACT Picturehouse
4th May - 10th May 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is an ironic title to a film which explores the highly creative 'No Wave' cinema scene in the Lower East Side in Manhatten during the late 1970s.

Among those looking back wistfully, among many contributors, are Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, John Waters, Steve Buscemi and Jim Jarmusch.

There was not much money around at that time but it was nevertheless a very fertile time artistic-wise.

James Nares, the English painter and director, who was part of the scene, said that it was not the case that they wanted to make films for nothing but rather that they wanted to make films but had nothing.

The deprivation that afflicted large parts of New York at that time - the city nearly went bankrupt - is clearly reflected in the film, for instance abandoned and rubbish strewn streets and multitudes of rats and cockroaches scurrying through derelict houses.

Many stories are recounted, notably Amos Poe, who directed The Blank Generation in 1976, an indie documentary which put Television, Talking Heads and Patti Smith on the map. Despite a miniscule budget and under great stress, but with enormous willpower and resolve, he successfully completed the project.

By the time he had finished his next film, Unmade Beds, using second-hand Super 8 cameras, his wife was in a mental institution, he had a new baby and New York was heavily blanketed under snow. "It was a best time, worst time in my life," he said with feeling.

Others who make telling commentss are John Lurie, who founded Lounge Lizards, who appeared in Jarmusch's film Stranger Than Paradise. He used to fund his films by staging the robbery of his saxaphones and then claimed the insurance money.

All in all a compelling movie with many examples of obscure film clips and rare interview footage.

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