As downtown New York seems to teeter on the brink of a fresh set of “bad old days,” Celine Danhier’s compelling documentary, Blank City, reminds audiences that they might stand to gain as much from fiscal ruin as they do to lose.
No Wave filmmakers defied mainstream categorization (director Lydia Lunch: “I’m fine with the No Wave label, because the word ‘no’ is in it”). But they strived to elevate cheap 8mm and 16mm film stock above the esoteric film school ghetto to which those grainy formats had been confined. These were no-budget art films, but traditional narrative was key. Influences included Godard, Fellini, Antonioni and Cassavettes, brilliant filmmakers who, while outside the
Blank City showcases a dizzying array of avant-garde filmmakers. And while it’s gratifying to see so many underground artists gain exposure, the movie’s purview is almost too encyclopedic. The impression is of a splinter group of artists who lived in the
Outward misanthropy be damned (Steve Buscemi, something of a No Wave muse, remembers his giddiness whenever he witnessed a reluctant half-smile from Zedd), many subjects (including, yes, Zedd) emphasized that humor was key to the subgenre. No Wave was born of the desperation that living in a bombed out
It’s possible that No Wave was a victim of its own success. Jean-Michel Basquiat, an emblem of the ‘80s
Parties weren’t made to last, of course, and