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Jean Michel Basquiat,
This little oddity is the only film credited to writer-director Anders Grafstrom who died in a car accident in Mexico at the age of 23 just a few months after its completion. Grafstrom was part of New York's highly influential No Wave cinema movement and this work displays many of that scene's typical motifs. The film is shot in Super-8 and the acting, cinematography and editing have a DIY amateurish that tends to divide audiences.
Unusually, for a No Wave film, The Long Island Four has a fairly coherent plot based on a real life historical incident. The film reimagines Operation Pastorius, a German wartime programme designed to infiltrate the United States and destroy industrial plants, bridges, railroads, waterworks, and Jewish-owned department stores.
German Intelligence hoped that sabotage teams of four men would be able to slip into the US at the rate of one or two every six weeks. The Long Island Four follows the disastrous first team, led by George Dasch, which rowed ashore to Long Island during heavy fog on June 12, 1942. In this version of reality, the saboteurs quickly become seduced by America's corruptive decadence and begin to waver on their mission plans.
The four Nazi saboteurs are played by well-known East Village faces. The quartet consists of their leader Dasch (David McDermott, from the Victorian-style artist duo McDermott and McGough), Richard (Lance Loud, actor and musician from NY punk band Mumps), Heinrich (musician Kristian Hoffman, who played with Loud in Mumps), and Berger (Bradley Field, from influential No Wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks).
Casting around the close-knit East Village underground scene also meant parts went to Klaus Nomi, Tina L'Hotsky, Patti Astor, Joey Arias, Kristian Hoffman, Eric Mitchell, Ann Magnuson and Gedde Watanabe.
If you don't take this film too seriously (and the cast certainly don't) there's a fair bit to enjoy here. It takes a fair bit of chutzpah and ambition to make a period film on a virtually non-existent budget and Grafstrom and company seemed to have had a lot of fun doing so. The actors' abilities vary considerably but they supply enough comic energy and improvisational flair to keep the film moving along nicely. At the end of the day, this is a piece which is very much of a particular time and place and can be watched just as a nostalgic reminder of New York's short-lived but influential No Wave cinema movement.
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