Thursday, July 16, 2015

The NYC films of BAM's 'Indie 80s' series

[From "Blank Generation"]

BAMcinématek's sprawling "Indie 80s" program, co-presented with Cinema Conservancy, starts tomorrow (out in Brooklyn, yes)… and runs through Aug. 27.

In total, there are more than 60 films "spotlighting the independent films of the neglected decade between the golden age of 70s New Hollywood and the indie boom of the 90s."

Of particular interest are the dozen or so titles filmed in New York City, including in the East Village with "Alphabet City," "Blank Generation" and "Landlord Blues."

We asked David Reilly, who has been a programmer for BAMcinématek since 2011, a few questions about the "Indie 80s" program.

In terms of these various NYC features, what were you looking for to fit into the "Indie 80s" series?

We sought out fiercely independent, personal films that in some way reflect what we’ve described as “an aesthetic and political rebuke to the greed-is-good culture of bloated blockbusters and the trumped-up monoculture of Reagan-era America” – an attitude that’s on display in abundance in New York’s creative community of the era and certainly not limited to a specific community or “scene.”

You can see this in the incredible diversity of neighborhoods and cultures represented onscreen: from CBGB punks ("Blank Generation") to Bronx hip-hop pioneers ("Wild Style"), from the gay community at the height of the AIDS crisis ("Parting Glances") to the Puerto Rican community in pre-gentrification Williamsburg ("Los Sures"), from Upper West Side intellectuals ("My Dinner with Andre") to Fort Greene’s “Brooklyn Boheme” black arts scene ("She’s Gotta Have It"), and beyond. There’s an embarrassment of riches in New York indies during this period, and we’ve tried to capture at least a small slice of that pie.

Do you see any common themes emerge from the various films about New York City during this time period?

A recurring sense of struggling to get by and live outside the system during a violent, troubled moment in the City’s history. There’s a certain ominousness and anxiety embedded in the Ed Koch Era, and it seeps through these films in a variety of forms: sexual predators ("Ms. 45"), scumbag landlords ("Landlord Blues"), roving street gangs ("Vigilante" and "Alphabet City"), homelessness ("Sidewalk Stories"), and of course, the devastation of AIDS.

What kind of legacy do you think the NYC films in the series have … particularly on the 90s indie boom?

For New Yorkers, these films are a crucial document of a very different city that’s becoming more and more unrecognizable with each passing day, and a period of explosive creativity the likes of which we may never see again.

And it’s hard to imagine a phenomenon like "Kids" (1995) — a scrappy New York story made with a mostly non-professional cast getting a major distribution deal and grossing over $20 million — being possible without these 1980s predecessors paving the way for a larger cultural awareness of independent filmmaking.


And here are a few of the NYC/EV-based films on the docket…

Alphabet City (1984)
Directed by Amos Poe. With Vincent Spano, Michael Winslow, Kate Vernon.
Nineeteen-year-old Johnny (Spano) is an East Village drug kingpin with the white Pontiac Firebird to prove it. But when he decides to go straight, he finds that the mob that made him isn’t going to let him off that easily. Punk filmmaker Amos Poe crafts a luridly expressionistic gangster saga set amidst the neon- splashed mean streets of the Lower East Side. The echt-80s, synthpop soundtrack is by Chic’s Nile Rodgers.
Wed, Aug 26 at 9:30 pm

Blank Generation (1980)
Directed by Ulli Lommel. With Carole Bouquet, Richard Hell, Ulli Lommel.
Punk icon Richard Hell stars as a volatile rocker having an affair with a French journalist (Bouquet) in this grimy glimpse of New York’s punk underground. Capturing the raucous energy and seedy atmosphere of the 80s downtown scene, Blank Generation features Hell and his band the Voidoids performing classics like the title track and “Love Comes in Spurts” at CBGB, as well as an appearance by executive producer Andy Warhol. Digital.
Thu, Jul 30 at 7 pm

Landlord Blues (1986)
Directed by Jacob Burckhardt. With Mark Boone Junior, Richard Litt, Raye Dowell.
An East Village bicycle shop owner (Boone Junior) takes matters into his own hands when his scumbag landlord (Litt) tries to evict him. Set against the first wave of gentrification to sweep through downtown, this ultra-rare, shot-on-16mm tenant’s revenge tale features footage of the former East 13th St. squats as well as music and an appearance by Nona Hendryx. 16mm.
Mon, Aug 10 at 7pm; Q&A with Burckhardt

Ms. 45 (1981)
Directed by Abel Ferrara. With Zoë Lund.
The ne plus ultra of women’s revenge movies, Abel Ferrara’s exploitation classic takes place in the cesspool of 80s New York, where mute garment district worker Thana (Lund) is raped once, twice—and then snaps. Packing a pistol and clad in leather (and later a nun’s habit), Thana handily wastes a good chunk of Manhattan’s male population, while Ferrara, defying the grindhouse trappings, forges a feminist statement in extremis. DCP.
Sat, Aug 15 at 4:15, 9 pm

Parting Glances (1986)
Directed by Bill Sherwood. With Richard Ganoung, John Bolger, Steve Buscemi.
This marvelously witty, compassionate snapshot of Manhattan’s 1980s gay community was one of the first films ever to lend a human face to the HIV crisis. New York City couple Michael (Ganoung) and Robert (Bolger) grapple with the emotional fallout of their impending separation and the illness of a friend (Buscemi, memorable in his first major role) dying of AIDS.
Tue, Aug 4 at 7:30, 9:30 pm

Vigilante (1983)
Directed by William Lustig. With Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Richard Bright.
Grindhouse auteur William Lustig (Maniac) serves up a crazily violent bloodbath in this twisted, pure-pulp thriller. When gang members attack his wife and kill his son, a Queens factory worker (Forster) joins up with an outlaw vigilante group and makes it his personal mission to clean up the streets. “Directed with classical, self-effacing skill” (Dave Kehr, The New York Times), Vigilante is a grim, grimy time capsule of 1980s New York City. 35mm print courtesy of the Cinema Conservancy Archive.
Thu, Jul 30 at 4:30, 9:30 pm Intro by William Lustig

Vortex (1982)
Directed by Beth B & Scott B. With James Russo, Lydia Lunch, Bill Rice.
Noir meets No Wave in this paranoid punk thriller from New York downtown agitators Beth and Scott B. Attitudinal underground musician Lydia Lunch (Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) stars as a no-BS, leather- clad detective investigating the murder of a politician in a futuristic dystopia of corporate corruption. The Bs make the most of a miniscule budget with stylish visuals, hardboiled dialogue, and an unsettling soundtrack. 16mm.
Mon, Aug 10 at 9:30 pm

Wild Style (1982)
Directed by Charlie Ahearn. With Lee Quiñones, Sandra Fabara, Patti Astor.
The original hip-hop movie, Wild Style was the first film to document the scene’s music, breaking, and street art at its inception. It follows a subway tagger named Zoro (played by graffiti legend Quiñones) through the vibrant street culture of the Bronx in the early 80s. Filmed with semidocumentary authenticity, Wild Style features appearances by seminal artists like Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, Lady Pink, Fab 5 Freddy, Busy Bee, and more.
Fri, Aug 21 at 7 pm

For the full program and tickets, go here.


Bayou said...

No 'Mondo New York?' The hell?

Anonymous said...

After Hours

Liquid Sky

Anonymous said...

The still for "Blank Generation" is the 70s version of today's monied, leisure class. Woot!

Anonymous said...

Smithereens is another great film that documents the LES early 80s scene... and shows that even back then, young hipsters were pretty damn insufferable.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...Liquid Sky!

Anonymous said...

What about GRINGO, why is that always left out.....

Anonymous said...

Way to go 7:11 he was a there to many