Today, Manhattan is a byword for overpriced property, overexposed landmarks and overdressed fashionistas. In the late 70s, however, it was rat-infested, crime-crippled, cheap and nasty - somewhere for America to dump its immigrants, poor people and artists. Music, art, fashion and filmmaking burgeoned, fueled by drugs, dares, fads, feuds, and a fair helping of madness.Written by
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Blank City is about the underground New York City film-makers who sprang up in the post-punk years. The films that were made were amateurish and technically raw; they were made with next to no money and they featured for the most part non-actors; their subject matter was often shocking and confrontational. Without doubt, the punk spirit was very much alive in these movies. It was known as the No Wave movement.
I saw this at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and I'm going to be upfront here and admit that I was under the impression from the EIFF brochure that this was going to be about something else. It sounded like it was going to cover the post-punk scene in the grimy streets of NYC circa 1980. But really, this documentary is more or less only about these underground films and filmmakers. While many of the participants are fascinating and some of the films seem odd and of-their-time enough to be of interest, I just felt that for my tastes the material was stretched out to breaking point. I was hoping that the music scene would be given some exposure too, to compliment proceedings but that just didn't happen. Having said that, having heard some Lydia Lunch recordings in the past this may not have been strictly a bad thing. I guess I was essentially hoping for NYC post-punk music to be covered more generally, rather than specifically the No Wave movement, of which I am not keen on at all. At least in the 60's the art films of Andy Warhol had The Velvet Underground to soundtrack them.
It's certainly interesting in places and occasionally funny. But it does get a bit wearing after a time. This would most probably have made a much better short film; it doesn't in truth really justify its feature length as there just isn't enough development in content or trajectory. It's an admirable effort but sadly it just wasn't for me.
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