August 20, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Blank City

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Blank City

Today's movie: Blank City, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is a new and well-regarded documentary about a subject I have found fascinating for a long time -- the ultra-underground film movement of late-'70s and early-'80s lower Manhattan, which went hand-in-hand with the development of both punk music and performance art in this same neighborhood in those same years.

The reality: Wow, just so entertaining and informative and well-done! And that's because director Celine Danhier, making her feature debut here, picked an incredibly good time in history to do such a documentary, at a point when her subjects are just old enough to have really astute reminiscences but still young enough to remember it all; and so she was able to wrangle present-day interviews out of nearly everyone still alive who was even on the scene back then, some of whom stayed in the industry and have become quite famous (like Deborah Harry, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters and Steve Buscemi), but most of whom experienced the highest point of their public fame back then, and who no one but obscure aficionados have heard of since. And that makes this informative film even more charming to someone like me, who was actually following along with this stuff in the years it was originally happening (or, just a few years later in my case, the mid-'80s instead of the early-'80s); because while some of these people have gently transitioned into normal fiftysomethings here in our 21st-century times, a lot of them are still sporting the exact same outfits and haircuts, with their fat and wrinkles poking through their goth outfits (not to mention their stubborn adherence to their outdated youthful anger) being a gently humorous reminder of our own inevitable obsolescence. (In fact, ironically the one person who both comes off looking the best in middle age, and having the most sensible attitude about his experiences back then, is Richard Kern, still revered in current youth culture for being a celebrated fashion photographer and alt-pornographer.) An endlessly interesting doc that holds all kinds of surprises about those years, this is an indispensable watch for film buffs, punk fans, those interested in the "no wave" revolution of lower Manhattan, and those simply with an interest in underground culture. It's easily the best documentary I've seen in the last year, and it comes recommended to one and all.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:28 PM, August 20, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |