Downtown 81

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Released 2001

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Movie Summary

Director:
Unknown
Released:
2001
Rating:
Not rated
Downtown 81 is a 1981 dramedy, also known as New York Beat Movie. The film is not totally fiction, not totally documentary, and not totally concert in constitution. It's more like a punk-new-wave fever dream with Debbie Harry as a guardian angel and some bands that will be obscure except for the buffs of the music era (save for a couple of exceptions). Viewers get a view into how young artist Jean Michel Basquiat goes about his day and night, and has to contend with getting kicked out of his apartment, his band equipment being ripped off (by just one person), and as he tries to track down a woman who he thinks is out of this world who says she'll take care of him for life. Fat chance. The film is a kind of travelogue through the dirt and grime, the beat boxes and graffiti artists, the weird bands like DNA (it's not good music, but it is interesting in an avant-garde doing-what-we-like way), and some of the bigger bands like Kid Creole and James and the Blacks.moreless

Metacritic Score

  • 80

    Variety

    Extraordinary real-life snapshot of hip, arty, clubland Manhattan in the post-punk era.

  • 50

    Christian Science Monitor David Sterritt

    Its main value is the prolonged look it gives of the late artist Basquiat.

  • 40

    The New York Times Dave Kehr

    It's as a documentary that Downtown 81 is most successful, particularly at those moments when the somewhat unfocused filmmaking allows us to look past the foreground characters and...

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    Categories

    Arts, Drama

    Themes

    Painting, Independent, Biography