Blank City at the Cinematheque

Blank City
At the Winnipeg Cinematheque, 100 Arthur St.
Thu Oct 6, 2011 at 9:00 PM
Fri Oct 7, 2011 at 9:00 PM
Sat Oct 8, 2011 at 9:00 PM
Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Check out Blank City at the Cinematheque this weekend! Blank City is the tale of a poverty-stricken group of renegade New York filmmakers in the late 70s and 80s. This film is one not to miss folks!

Check out the trailer below, and a review from Uptown Magazine‘s Kenton Smith.

-Aaron Zeghers

From Uptown Magazine, October 5th, 2011:

The blasted city as blank canvas
Before the Giuliani era, New York was a bubbling crucible of filmmaking innovation, as chronicled in doc Blank City

Poverty, crime and hardship should not be prerequisites for making vibrant art — but they might help.

Blank City is a documentary that focuses on the so-called No Wave underground of mid-’70s and early-’80s New York City. Long before Rudy Giuliani rebranded it, the place was synonymous with danger and squalor; cheap rents, however, made it a great place for artists.

The No Wave phenomenon encompassed various media and disciplines (figures such as musician Debbie Harry were stars in its firmament), with everyone knowing and helping each other out. Watching the film, it’s hard not to think of our own artistic community here in Winnipeg, so mutually supportive and innovative. The reasons for that are our own, certainly, although rents here remain cheap. But a similar ethos was at work in NYC, with everyone “throwing everything out the window,” as one interviewee says, and making films with no money.

Filmmaking is what director Celine Danhier concentrates on. We’re told the Lower East side was like a “little movie studio,” with naïve, untrained filmmakers making a lot up as they went. It was, in a sense, punk filmmaking.

The filmmakers — Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise) perhaps foremost among them — were also borrowing from the avant-garde underground established by Andy Warhol and followers, and adapting it for their purposes. Some, such as Jarmusch, wanted to make narrative films, while others, such as Richard Kern and Nick Zedd, consciously crafted more overtly political ones.

To many of these artists’ amazement, their films actually began to have some success, drawing huge crowds of New Yorkers. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that many were really about New York; docs such as Downtown 81 and dramas such as Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation used locations to tremendous effect, vividly capturing the time and place.

What Blank City illustrates so well is that creativity can be furiously stoked by limitations and consequently, produce art that’s fresh, energetic and authentic. It’s not that we wouldn’t necessarily have gotten worthwhile art, had New York been a different city back then. We just wouldn’t have gotten the No Wave.

-Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on October 7, 2011.

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