2010, Movies

Blank City (2010, Celine Danhler)

This documentary film chronicles the rise and fall of No Wave (the movies, not so much the music), New Cinema and the Cinema of Transgression in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to interviews with the filmmakers and stars, it features a number of famous people (some directors and musicians, an actor or two) who you will recognize.

If this documentary has a thesis, it is that these movements created independent film, which is bullshit and extremely New York-centric and maybe that’s why I didn’t love the movie. It’s quite in depth and it tells the story reasonably well, though extremely conventionally, which is kind of funny, given the types of films its chronicling. But these movements really celebrated the cult of the amateur, and the creative freedom that these movements aimed for is much more apparent, to me, in No Wave music, than it is in a bunch of films that I have no interest in seeing because I know they will be a) poorly made and b) boring. (This kind of independent film is nearly always boring.)

It’s great that these movements launched the careers of a few people, and it’s great that there was a time in New York City where creative freedom was this anarchic, but independent film existed before these people started shooting films, and there have been plenty of other creative explosions in cinematic history, nearly all of which had higher production standards than these filmmakers appear to have had.

It’s of interest if you are interested in independent film, or in art in general, or in the history of New York City, but the interviewees could all tone down their hipper-than-thou shit just a little. And the film itself is just a talking head documentary with lots of film clips (and some music clips).


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