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Downtown 81 (1981)

New York Beat Movie (original title)
Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 14 March 2001 (France)
The film is a day in the life of a young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat, who needs to raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. He wanders the downtown streets ... See full summary »

Director:

Edo Bertoglio

Writer:

Glenn O'Brien

On Disc

at Amazon

3 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jean Michel Basquiat ... Jean
Richard Weigand Richard Weigand ... Doctor
Cyndy Schneidau Cyndy Schneidau ... Nurse
Millie Schneidau Millie Schneidau ... Nurse
Steven Z. Soszynski Steven Z. Soszynski ... Grocer
Anna Schroeder Anna Schroeder ... Béatrice
Giorgio Gomelsky Giorgio Gomelsky ... Landlord (as Giorgio Giomelsky)
Ted Bafaloukos Ted Bafaloukos ... Junk Dealer
Bobby Grossman Bobby Grossman ... East Village Junkie
Mickey Clean Mickey Clean ... Pot Dealer
Roberta Bayley Roberta Bayley ... Street Girl
Dave Street Dave Street ... Musician
Tish Bellomo Tish Bellomo ... Manic Panic Girl
Snooky Bellomo Snooky Bellomo ... Manic Panic Girl
Kool Kyle Kool Kyle ... Rapper
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Storyline

The film is a day in the life of a young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat, who needs to raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. He wanders the downtown streets carrying a painting he hopes to sell, encountering friends, whose lives (and performances) we peek into. He finally manages to sell his painting to a wealthy female admirer, but he's paid by check. Low on cash, he spends the evening wandering from club to club, looking for a beautiful girl he had met earlier, so he'll have a place to spend the night. Downtown 81 not only captures one of the most interesting and lively artists of the twentieth century as he is poised for fame, but it is a slice of life from one of the most exciting periods in American culture, with the emergence of new wave music, new painting, hip hop and graffiti. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Musical

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

New York Beat Films

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 March 2001 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Downtown 81 See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,436, 15 July 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$100,293, 28 October 2001
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Unfortunately, the original soundtrack became destroyed over the years. The producers were able to get most of the original cast to re-dub their dialogue. But Jean Michel Basquiat died in 1988. So Saul Williams was hired to dub Basquiat's dialogue. See more »

Quotes

Jean Michel Basquiat: I'm an artist. When you tell people that they usually say, 'what's your medium?' I usually say, 'extra large.'
See more »

Alternate Versions

In the 2001 version, Downtown 81, Saul Williams does the voiceover for Jean-Michel Basquiat's character. See more »

Connections

Featured in Basquiat (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Palabras Con Ritmo
Written by Jean Michel Basquiat and Coati Mundi
Performed by Coati Mundi
Courtesy of Coati Mundi Productions
See more »

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User Reviews

A snapshot of 1981 Post-Punk, New-Wave Manhattan
24 July 2006 | by Camera-ObscuraSee all my reviews

Usually referred to by its original title "DOWNTOWN 81", the film gives a snapshot of life in run-down Lower East Side Manhattan in the early '80s. Shot in 1981, the film portrays the day-to-day routine of Jean-Michel Basquiat, "graffiti"-artist, musician, or perhaps more accurately, artist in general, as he tries to survive amidst rappers, junkies, strippers, models and uptown art-lovers. Due to financial difficulties, the film apparently got lost, but part of the original material was recovered in 1998 and was finally released in the year 2000. The original soundtrack remained lost, so Basquiat's voice had to be dubbed.

It's an interesting time-capsule of Post-Punk, New-Wave New York, with a sometimes fascinating compilation of interesting vignettes from the scene, but as a movie, it's less rewarding. The story is practically non-existent and there is no acting really, as everybody play themselves. There's much resemblance to the experimental films Andy Warhol made about the New York art scene. It's a typical example of a "fiction" film with a very lose story line combined with mostly real-life characters from the period, like Deborah Harry, Fab Five Freddy, the music of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Tuxemodoon, The Plastics, DNA, The Lounge Lizards and Basquiat himself with his own band, Gray. A long segment in the film is reserved for a live performance of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. If you're a fan, it's great fun.

In the end a mixed bag, a film mainly of interest for fans of Basquiat and the music of the era. So, if you like the period, it's definitely worth checking out.

Camera Obscura --- 7/10


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