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Downtown 81
Downtown 81
Actors: Jean Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, Ted Bafaloukos, Tom Baker, Eszter Balint
Director: Edo Bertoglio
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Special Interests, Educational
NR     2002     1hr 12min

Legendary painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was only 19 years old when he played the lead in DOWNTOWN 81, a striking "lost" film that chronicles the explosive early-'80s Manhattan...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jean Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, Ted Bafaloukos, Tom Baker, Eszter Balint
Director: Edo Bertoglio
Creators: John McNulty, Pamela French, Glenn O'Brien, Maripol, Michael Zilkha, Patrick Montgomery
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Special Interests, Educational
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Special Interests, Educational
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 10/22/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/1981
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1981
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 12min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A holy grail film | New Jersey, USA | 01/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Boy, If I was happy when this film came out in New York a few years back.
I believe, the director made the effort to release it, 20 years after it was made, as an alternative to Julian Schnabel's film "basquiat". Back in the New York 80s, there were two type of artistic world. The Soho type, which followed the Andy Warhol's double edge philosophy: "Making money is an art",and the East Village type, which followed the tradition of the Beat poets.

Ofcourse, the legacy Warhol left when he produced the Velvet Underground as an "art form" and also films of conceptual ideas,( 1960s) were not part of the "making money" image of Soho.

This phase in Warhol's career ( before he became really rich) was the source of the east village bohemians, the so called "Children of Andy Warhol",
Those hipsters, were the one producing the art films and punk bands.
Noone was painting in the east village at the time. One was either a film maker or a member in a punk band. Cool art was graffiti, because it was not considered art by the status quo, and that was precisely what the scene of the east village was looking for: anti-art.
It was not so much wealth what we were after, but be part of the pantheon of die-hard hipsters.

Punk musicians were more and more expressing themselves through film. Basquiat was a member of Gray.(a No Wave Band)(NO Wavers was the underground within the underground in those days)

Debby Harry a member of Blondie. It was said at the time that what made Basquiat truly known within that underground was his encounter with Blondie, who got him into the film. IT is true that he was known as Samo, but that was something else.
Why is this film a holy grail? well, se how many films Picasso did about himself; only one Le Mystere Picasso. In Downtown 81 we not only see the legend, we see the neighborhood and the bands. It is an historical documentary. Something that the author himself ( Im sure) never had in mind when filming it. That is the reason why it was lost for so long. They never thought it was important.
That brings to mind the words of Picasso: "Art is stronger than I, because it makes me do what she wants"

They worked on one more punk film, when in fact it was a jewel in the making, something beyond their grasp. They were merely the instruments that help create a documentary that was destined to exist.

I think this film is as important as the "in the Horse's mouth" by Alec Guiness and Le Mystere Picasso by Claude Cluzot.

These three films about artists, could become the unholy trinity
for those who listen to the beat of a different drum.

A bunch of artists glorifying their scene--as they well shou
Charles Comer | Baltimore, Maryland | 08/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you're expecting a documentary of Basquiat, you will be sorely dissapointed. If you're expecting a movie qua movie, you'll be less dissapointed, but not as much. Downtown 81 is at the very least an art film that happens to feature Basquiat, as well as the "stars" of nyc circa '79. If you have never seen films of this type you are in for a ride. Apropos of this genre, Downtown 81 is ostensibly low budget, quirky, but most of all, historical. Historical not in the sense that it is an important film, but rather historical as a document. Not since Mondo New York have i encountered a film that captures so well the feeling, mood, vibe, and color of this so very interesting period in both the underground of New York, but also the art scene. I would even add that it gives one a glimpse of life in general in what the description on the reverse of the package calls "pre-Giuliani New York"; a very different Manhatten than what we all might expect.

As both a fan of Basquiat and of Schnabel's movie, I would assume the other fans of either or both will find this film quite entertaining. Otherwise, I recommend it for anyone interested in the 80's art scene, the early nyc punk/new wave scene, or those curious about the underbelly of the nyc of this period.

Additionally, what makes this release so interesting and important are the extras, especially the segment from an early cable tv show featuring Basquiat during the SAMO years.

All in all, not a bad bang for the buck, as well as a great addition to any cd collection of one whose curiosity has been piqued by this particular time."
A trippy almost surreal peek into the 80s New York art scene
Kyle Garrett | Chicago,ILL | 10/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you can bypass the bad,out of sync dialogue(It seems the original master audio might have been lost and recreated solely for the re-issue)this is a really good ,dare I say it, art movie. It's a rare treat for anyone to see classic No Wave bands like DNA,Tuxedomoon & James White and the Blacks on film,hands down. And who can ever say even one bad word about the Japanese band the Plastics? My only slight beef with the film was that it sometimes tried to drive the point too much in the premise that "This is New York,baby!!! We're the center of the world!" Also,it vacillated between Basquiat,his syntax art and the bands so often you weren't sure what was the film's true focus. Still,for a 21 year old lost movie(that survived only by the master negative being locked away and forgotten)it's a gem of a period piece. The special appearance by Debbie Harry makes things even more quirky. Very definitely an excellent companion video to the Basquiat biopic."
The extra star is for the Time Capsule.....
el-detroit | Detroit, MI United States | 02/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Movie is really a "loose term" here, there's not much of a linear story going on, but it is excellent for capturing a exciting time period for NYC.Enjoyed seeing the different groups, Kid Creole and Deborah Harry a/k/a Blondie in their respective primes. I bought it for Basquait, but it was decent. Yeah, the dialogue sucked, watch it on mute and turn up the musical #'s... I don't blame the filmakers though, apparently the original sound was lost."