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Blank City


USA Director: Céline Danhier


Producers: Dan Braun, Vanessa Roworth, Aviva Wishnow


Cinematographer: Ryo Murakami, Peter Szollosi Editor: Vanessa Roworth 2009/color, b&w/94 min.


CÉLINE DANHIER


With an eclectic, creative background, Céline Danhier began working in film after receiving a master’s degree in law from the Sorbonne. She worked for the independent production company Les Enragés in Paris and was a member of the avant-garde theater group La Compagnie Vapeur. In 2006, Danhier moved to New York City, working as an art director for photo shoots and then directing runway shows. Blank City is her feature film debut.


What punk was to its music, the No Wave movement was to the cinema of New York City in the 1970s, when lower Manhattan was ridden with poverty, crime, drugs—and a thriving art scene.


For her documentary debut, filmmaker Céline Danhier has returned to the scene of the sublime grime to recapture in thorough detail its pregentrification glories. The key to the DIY movement was cross-pollination: musicians, painters, writers and filmmakers begged, stole, borrowed and collaborated from and with one another, yielding works of irresistible energy and unmistakable style, at once gritty and witty. Among her lively, ever-quotable interviewees are famous and almost famous faces alike. Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi and Vincent Gallo got their start here; Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Fab 5 Freddy and Thurston Moore (of cult legend Sonic Youth) did too. Jean-Michel Basquiat was a ubiquitous, if rarely sober, presence. And then there are the movers and shakers whom fame eluded but whose influence lives on—including Nick Zedd, founder of the underground movement known as Cinema of Transgression, and fellow pioneer Amos Poe.


Danhier’s painstaking efforts have also resulted in a wealth of archival footage; Super-8 and 16mm film clips capture the heyday of the Bowery and the East Village before Reagan-era capitalism took effect and CBGB became just another T-shirt logo.


—RUTH TOBIAS


58


DOCUMENTARY


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