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Once Upon a Time in New York: the Birth of Hip Hop, Disco and Punk (2007)

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John Cale ...
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Jayne County ...
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Richard Hell ...
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5 March 2007 (UK)  »

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Doesn't have a huge amount of detail but it is tightly produced and makes for an engaging easily accessible potted history for the casual viewer
6 May 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In the late 1960's and 1970's New York was not the shinning world city that it now is. Crime was up and living conditions in many areas were very low. However against this background, various musical styles that would reach a global audience developed. This film explores the New York of the time and charts the rise of punk, disco and hip-hop with archive footage and contributions from key people involved at the time.

Apart from the terrible pan and scan job that had been done on the copy broadcast on BBC4 (where titles and names dropped off either side of the screen), this is a really well structured potted history of the musically creative period in New York City that produced punk rock, disco and hip hop. A lot of ground to cover perhaps but yet the film manages it thanks to tightly edited talking heads (including members of the Talking Heads!) and good use of archive footage. Of course it also achieves this by simplifying the history and period and not going into too much detail on any one aspect. To some viewers this will be a problem but the majority of casual viewers will appreciate the flow and overview provided.

Whalley and his team does a great job with the contributions and the archive footage to keep it tight but also make sure that we feel like we get the good out of impressive collection of people presented; many I could have listened to for longer but this was not the film for that. I suppose a lot of the credit should go to editor Quigley for bringing it all together and never actually having a moment that doesn't add value to the overall product. O'Brien's voice-over is restrained and well used in the way that it is never pushed to the fore or anywhere near the fore.

An interesting and engaging documentary for the casual viewer; sure it doesn't have a huge amount of detail but it is tightly produced and makes for an easily accessible potted history.


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