Downtown 81.

A while back we revealed that East Village cultural space Howl! Happening would be presenting an exhibition to coincide with the release of Sara Driver’s new Basquait documentary, Boom For Real: The Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now Howl!’s neighbor, Anthology Film Archives, sends over the lineup for the film series that will coincide with the exhibit. The cinema is going all out for this one, dividing the series into a two parts. One is dedicated to films by or about Basquiat, as well as some contemporary films; the other features overlooked or personally influential films of the era picked by Driver, hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, street art pioneer Lee Quinones, author and Lower East Side historian Luc Sante, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and other Basquiat associates who appeared in the Boom For Real. 

The highlights are plentiful. In addition to the requisite screenings of Basquiat and Permanent Vacation, there’ll be showings of TV Party, the cult public access show hosted by the late Glenn O’Brien, where Basquiat was a frequent guest; films by Vivienne Dick, featuring downtown icon Lydia Lunch; and the seminal Bronx hip-hop-and-graffiti-culture film Wild Style, with director Charlie Ahearn in attendance. Highlights of part two include a Williams S. Burroughs short film, Towers Open Fire, that’s described as “an assault on linear narrative and good taste” (what else would you expect from Burroughs?); a couple of Jamaica-set films, The Land of Look Behind and The Harder They Come; lyrical documentary Stations of the Elevated, which captures the graffiti scene of the ’70s; Berlin vampire flick Bad Blood for the Vampyr; and plenty more. Many of the films will be introduced by those who chose them.

Here’s a look at the entire program.


1981, 72 min, 35mm
“DOWNTOWN 81 features several no-wave bands (DNA, James White and the Blacks) along with the eclectic funk act Kid Creole and the Coconuts and stars Basquiat as himself; not yet 20 and then better known as a graffiti artist, he checks out of a hospital and into the scene, wandering around Manhattan looking for a place to crash. Originally called NEW YORK BEAT, the movie belongs to an independent film tendency rooted in CBGB documentaries and Super-8 movies of the late 1970s, but its picaresque structure can be traced back to Ron Rice’s 1960 beatnik vérité, THE FLOWER THIEF, which featured the poet and performance artist Taylor Mead as its holy innocent. As Rice’s movie preserves a lost San Francisco, so DOWNTOWN 81 documents a vanished New York, although it is a more self-conscious and star-struck work: The vagrant protagonist is redeemed by an encounter with downtown’s most glamorous celebrity, Debbie Harry.” –J. Hoberman, NEW YORK TIMES
Fri, May 4 at 7:00.

Tamra Davis
2010, 93 min, digital
“THE RADIANT CHILD might make you weep (it did me) and might help you better appreciate a painter whose work matters enormously in the history of late-twentieth-century art. It achieves these ends largely though an abundance of footage of its subject at work and with a long interview that Davis videotaped in Los Angeles in 1986, two years before Basquiat’s death.” –Amy Taubin, ARTFORUM
Fri, May 4 at 9:00 and Sun, May 6 at 4:45.

Julian Schnabel
1996, 108 min, 35mm
A biopic of a major artistic figure of the NYC art scene of the 1980s, made by another major figure of that same moment, BASQUIAT was the directorial debut of painter Julian Schnabel (who would go on to make BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, and other films). An astute, perceptive, and cinematically inventive film that reveals a great deal both about the artist and his milieu, BASQUIAT is graced with an extraordinary performance from Jeffrey Wright, as well as memorable turns from a truly remarkable lineup of performers, including Gary Oldman, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Hopper, Courtney Love, Parker Posey, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken, and David Bowie, who uncannily channels Andy Warhol.
Sat, May 5 at 4:30 and Tues, May 8 at 7:15.

One of the glories of cable access television, Glenn O’Brien’s TV PARTY was NYC underground culture’s very own talk-show/variety-hour. A fixture on public access Channel D and Channel J from 1972-82, TV PARTY brought a taste of downtown’s glamorous, stylish, and creatively teeming club scene into New Yorker’s living rooms, and featured visits and performances from the likes of David Bowie, David Byrne, Robert Fripp, the B-52s, Chris Burden, George Clinton, Iggy Pop, James Chance, John Lurie, Klaus Nomi, Kraftwerk, Alex Chilton, Arthur Russell, and many, many others, with writer, editor, and tastemaker O’Brien (who wrote the screenplay for DOWNTOWN 81, and who passed away just last year) playing the role of charismatic, droll, and always deadpan host. One repeat visitor was none other than Jean-Michel Basquiat, and this special program features glimpses of several of his appearances, including excerpts from several newly recovered and restored episodes that have not been seen since they originally aired.
Sat, May 5 at 7:00.

Jim Jarmusch
1980, 75 min, 35mm
“Jarmusch’s first feature is a remarkable time capsule of the landscapes of the Lower East Side circa 1980, and its fashion, culture, and attitude. We follow lanky teenage jazz fiend Allie as he hangs out in his scuzzy tenement flat with girlfriend Leila, and drifts through a crumbling Lower East Side landscape that’s half war zone, half deserted playground. Along the way, he reads some French poetry, catches a Nicolas Ray film, steals a car…and bumps into a variety of morbid eccentrics and glamorous psychotics. Famously, when Jarmusch was filming in a flat on East 3rd Street, the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat took to using the set as a crash-pad. ‘Every time we did a reverse angle, I’d have to drag Jean-Michel in his sleeping bag under the camera so he’d be out of the shot,’ reported the director. ‘He’d grunt and go back to sleep.’” –BARBICAN
Sat, May 5 at 9:15 and Wed, May 9 at 7:00.

Charlie Ahearn
1983, 82 min, 35mm
Charlie Ahearn’s seminal WILD STYLE is a loosely-scripted narrative film that also functions as an invaluable glimpse into the graffiti and hip hop cultures, showcasing the art and music of legends such as Fab 5 Freddy and graffiti artist Lee Quinones. Its story follows the exploits of maverick tagger Zoro (Quinones), whose work attracts the attention of an East Village art fancier (Patti Astor) who commissions him to paint the stage for a giant Rapper’s Convention, and features additional appearances from Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, The Cold Crush Brothers, and more.
Sun, May 6 at 7:00.

Sara Driver
1986, 78 min, 35mm
“Driver’s first feature – a luminous, oddball comic fantasy about ancient Chinese curses and Xerox machines, set in Manhattan’s Chinatown and its immediate environs – may well be the most visually ravishing American independent film of its year. Set in an irrational, poetic universe that bears a certain relationship to Jacques Rivette’s DUELLE, this dreamy intrigue breaks a cardinal rule of fantasy by striking off in a number of directions: an executive barks in the street, a young Frenchwoman (Magnuson) loses her hair, and machines in a copy shop start to purr and wheeze on their own initiative. The moods that are established are delicate, and not everyone will be able to go with them, but Driver sustains them with beauty and eccentric charm.” –Jonathan Rosenbaum, CHICAGO READER
Mon, May 7 at 7:00 and Thurs, May 10 at 7:30.

Spike Lee
1986, 84 min, 35mm
“The funniest comedy of summer ‘86. Nola Darling, an earthily charismatic young woman, refuses to be dominated by any man. After a series of ‘dogs’ (hilariously lampooned in a montage of fatuous opening lines), Nola selects three paramours: Greer, Mars (Lee), and Jamie – a narcissist, a space shot, and a grim believer in true love. Her independence and their clashing styles combine in comic situations that build into giddy fugues; in one example, a plaintive soliloquy by Jamie morphs into an argument with Mars about basketball and the ugliness of Larry Bird.” –Peter Keough, CHICAGO READER
Mon, May 7 at 9:00 and Wed, May 9 at 9:00.

In concert with her Show & Tell program on May 14, which features the NYC premieres of three video works made since 2013, we present this selection of Vivienne Dick’s earlier work, including her seminal Super 8mm-shot films SHE HAD HER GUN ALL READY, STATEN ISLAND, and the rarely-screened NEW YORK CONVERSATIONS. In addition, Dick has guest-selected a film from the period that made a great impression on her, Ivan Galietti’s POMPEII NEW YORK, PART 1.

SHE HAD HER GUN ALL READY 1978, 28 min, Super-8mm-to-digital
This film explores the dynamic between a complacent, almost catatonic Pat Place and the demonic, aggressive Lydia Lunch, ending with a showdown at the rollercoaster on Coney Island.

STATEN ISLAND 1978, 6 min, Super-8mm-to-digital
An androgynous creature (Pat Place) wearing a tacky silver suit emerges from the sea on a rubbish strewn Staten Island beach.

NEW YORK CONVERSATIONS 1990, 21 min, video
Produced over Christmas of 1990, this piece explores the lives, fears, and work of six New Yorkers in a series of video vérité interviews. Representing a kind of look back at Dick’s NYC years, a decade after she returned to Ireland, it offers frequently funny and sometimes bizarre insights into the lives of the real ‘thirtysomething’ generation.

Ivan Galietti POMPEII NEW YORK, PART 1: PIER CARESSES 1982, 12 min, 16mm
“[This film] explores a gay cruising area of the New York piers, whose graffiti and crumbling erotic frescoes constitute a modern Pompei (and which is now an equally lost world due to urban redevelopment).” – Michael Goddard, FILM INTERNATIONAL

Total running time: ca. 70 min.
Mon, May 14 at 8:45.


SARA DRIVER:___________________________________________

Jacques Rivette
1981, 129 min, 35mm-to-DCP
“Bulle Ogier mère plays Marie, a New Left bank robber newly released from prison; her daughter [Pascale] is Baptiste, a grave, leather-jacketed country girl who cries ‘Bring it on, Babylon!’ as she enters Paris on her motorbike. […] Shot entirely in exterior – mostly outlying arrondissements characterized by empty construction sites, unused railroad tracks and derelict factories – LE PONT DU NORD evokes what the German critic Walter Benjamin, writing about 19th-century French literature, called ‘the phantasmagoria of Parisian life,’ a city in which ‘no matter what trail the flâneur may follow, every one of them will lead him to a crime.’ Benjamin cites a novel where the hero initiates his adventure by following a windblown scrap of paper. LE PONT DU NORD is Rivette’s successful gamble that a movie could be made the same way.” –J. Hoberman, NEW YORK TIMES
Thurs, May 17 at 6:00 and Tues, May 29 at 6:00.

Nicolas Roeg
1976, 140 min, 35mm. With David Bowie.
“David Bowie arrives in New Mexico as an orange-headed, shockingly well-composed alien and during the course of the film encounters several American archetypes: fast-talking lawyers and businessmen, cold-hearted scientists, a sympathetic hotel waitress (played by Candy Clark, whose performance alone makes the film worth watching), and a wall of television sets. The film itself feels as though it has been flung to us from outer space and alternates between very familiar, touching exchanges and less familiar, more frightening ones. The result is sometimes disjointed but more often extremely moving.” –Julian Antos
Thurs, May 17 at 9:00 and Tues, May 29 at 9:00.

LEE QUINONES:__________________________________________

Manfred Kirchheimer
1981, 45 min, 16mm-to-digital
Shot on lush 16mm color reversal stock, this exquisite city symphony by Manfred Kirchheimer weaves together vivid images of graffiti-covered elevated subway trains crisscrossing the gritty urban landscape of 1970s New York, to a commentary-free soundtrack that combines ambient city noise with jazz and gospel by Charles Mingus and Aretha Franklin. Gliding through the South Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan – and making a rural detour past a correctional facility upstate – STATIONS is an impressionistic portrait of and tribute to a New York that has long since disappeared.

Plus, an additional film to be announced!
Fri, May 18 at 7:00.

Gordon Douglas
1954, 94 min, 35mm, b&w
“By far the best of the 1950s cycle of ‘creature features,’ THEM! and its story of a nest of giant radioactive ants (the result of an atomic test in the New Mexico desert) retains a good part of its power today. All the prime ingredients of the total mobilization movie are here: massed darkened troops move through the eerie storm drains of Los Angeles, biblical prophecy is intermixed with gloomy speculation about the effect of radioactivity. Almost semi-documentary in approach, the formula is handled with more subtlety than usual, and the special effects are frequently superb.” –TIME OUT
Fri, May 18 at 9:00 and Sat, May 26 at 4:30.

TESSA HUGHES-FREELAND:_______________________________

Lysanne Thibodeau
1984, 22 min, 16mm
This cult film, made by Montreal-based filmmaker Thibodeau, shot in and inspired by Berlin, and featuring Blixa Bargeld, tells the gothic story of a lonely vampyr roving the streets of the modern city in search of virgin blood. But the quality of blood isn’t what it once was, and real virgins aren’t available anymore either.

“At that time, when the Berlin wall still stood, the relationship between New York and Berlin was strong. There were cultural affinities between the two cities, artistically bound by a common zeitgeist and D.I.Y. aesthetic.” –Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Dee D. Bache
THE DOORMAN ca. 1986, ca. 30 min, 16mm
A satirical farce about the pretentiousness of the New York club scene.
“The downtown community was quite small and largely made up people who worked in clubs. One usually knew the doorman or someone else who worked in most of the clubs, so getting in wasn’t a problem. In any case the door scene was always an interesting one.” –Tessa Hughes-Freeland
Sat, May 19 at 2:00.

Derek Jarman
1978, 103 min, 35mm-to-DCP
When Queen Elizabeth I asks her court alchemist to show her England in the future, she’s transported 400 years to a post-apocalyptic wasteland of roving girl gangs, an all-powerful media mogul, fascistic police, scattered filth, and twisted sex. With JUBILEE, Jarman channeled political dissent and artistic daring into a revolutionary blend of history and fantasy, musical and cinematic experimentation, satire and anger, fashion and philosophy. With its uninhibited punk petulance and sloganeering, JUBILEE brings together many cultural and musical icons of the time, including Jordan, Toyah Willcox, Little Nell, Wayne County, Adam Ant, and Brian Eno (with his first original film score), to create a genuinely unique, unforgettable vision.

“This film just so typifies the zeitgeist in London immediately prior to my leaving. Seeing Jordan waiting for the bus on the Victoria Palace Road certainly livened up a dreary English day. Jarman’s films were a huge influence on me as a filmmaker, especially his experimental work.” –Tessa Hughes-Freeland
Sat, May 19 at 4:15.

FAB 5 FREDDY:__________________________________________

Marcel Camus
1959, 107 min, 35mm. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
Marcel Camus’s BLACK ORPHEUS brings the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to the twentieth-century madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. With its eye-popping photography and ravishing, epochal soundtrack, BLACK ORPHEUS was an international cultural event, and it kicked off the bossa nova craze that set hi-fis across America spinning.
Sat, May 19 at 6:45 and Fri, May 25 at 9:30.

Perry Henzell
1972, 120 min, 35mm. With Jimmy Cliff.
This cult hit features reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin, a rural Jamaican musician who journeys to the city of Kingston in search of fame and fortune, but finds only corruption and exploitation. Drifting into drug dealing, he soon finds himself a criminal on the run from the law. Graced with some of the greatest music ever produced in Jamaica, and featuring Cliff’s hit song of the same name, THE HARDER THEY COME is a searing indictment of national and personal corruption.
Sat, May 19 at 9:30 and Fri, May 25 at 6:45.

FELICE ROSSER:_________________________________________

Ahmed El Maânouni
1981, 88 min, 35mm. Restored in 2007 by The World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata in association with Ahmed El-Maanouni and Izza Genini. Restoration funding provided by Armani, Cartier, Qatar Airways, and Qatar Museum Authority.)
The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. Storytellers through song, with connections to political theater, the band became an international sensation (Western music critics have often referred to them as “the Rolling Stones of North Africa”) thanks to their political lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on the Moroccan trance music tradition. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, TRANCES is cinematic poetry.

“I was 21 and living in Paris when I first heard the music of Nass el Ghiwane and it changed me forever.” –Felice Rosser
Sun, May 20 at 4:00 and Sat, May 26 at 7:00.

Ted Bafaloukos
1978, 100 min, 35mm
“Sounds from the golden age of reggae pulse through this breezy 1978 drama, about a group of carefree Jamaican musicians who champion their homegrown beat and band together when one of them loses his motorcycle to a local theft ring. Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace plays the main character, an ace drummer and confirmed loafer; aside from him the musicians in the cast (including Gregory Isaacs and Bunny Wailer) seem ill at ease in their dialogue scenes, but their joyful numbers are the whole show. Bafaloukos fondly observes the local colors and lingo and neatly paces the film’s climactic heist to the island’s syncopated beat.” –Ted Shen, CHICAGO READER

“The deep dark dub music in ROCKERS is my foundation.” –Felice Rosser
Sun, May 20 at 6:00 and Sat, May 26 at 9:00.

LUC SANTE:_____________________________________________

Vivienne Dick
1979, 41 min, Super 8mm-to-video
Using fragmented images of women and a central performance from Lydia Lunch as both a tormented five year old and a troubled teenager, this film looks at the mother and daughter relationship and examines the cyclical relationship between the two.

William S. Burroughs & Anthony Balch TOWERS OPEN FIRE 1963, 16 min, 16mm, b&w. Archival print courtesy of the British Film Institute.
An assault on linear narrative and good taste, bringing together readings by Burroughs, unrelated film sequences, and the pervasive image of Gysin’s Dream Machine – inducer of hallucinations and mental stimulation.

Jean Rouch THE MAD MASTERS / LES MAÎTRES FOUS 1955, 28 min, 16mm-to-digital. In French with English subtitles.
Rouch’s controversial short film documents a meeting of African participants in the Hauka movement, congregating to enter into a trance-like state and mockingly mimic their British colonial administrators.

Total running time: ca. 85 min.
Sun, May 20 at 8:30.

JIM JARMUSCH:__________________________________________

Alan Greenberg
1981, 90 min, 35mm collection print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
“An organic portrait of the very soul of Jamaica, and the earthy, pervasive substrata of Rastafarianism.” –Jim Jarmusch

“LAND OF LOOK BEHIND began as an exploration of Bob Marley’s contributions to Jamaican pop music and Jamaican life. But somewhere along the way it became something different, a kind of meditation on the island’s music and religion, its traditions and its pride, the feel of its inhabitants’ everyday activities and some of their hopes for the future. LAND OF LOOK BEHIND won’t satisfy viewers who like having things spelled out for them, whether by a voiceover or a mundane, predictable plot. It has neither, and that is both its minor weakness and its distinguishing strength.” –Robert Palmer, NEW YORK TIMES
Mon, May 21 at 6:45 and Mon, May 28 at 6:45.

Kuei Chih-Hung
1983, 99 min, 35mm. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Print courtesy of the American Genre Film Archive.
“There is a recognizable plot somewhere in BOXER’S OMEN about a guy getting killed in Thailand while boxing and his brother’s search for revenge, but really it’s an excuse for some of the most lurid and surreal imagery ever put on film. A woman is sewn into the stomach of a dead crocodile. An army of animated alligator skulls march across a bleak hellscape before bats fly out of their eyes. A monk wraps himself in an enormous placenta. Whatever you think you’re prepared for, you’re not. BOXER’S OMEN is the kind of movie that’s seared into your brain, but there’s always some stomach-churning marvel that ambushes you upon each new viewing.” –Grady Hendrix, FILM COMMENT
Mon, May 21 at 9:15 and Mon, May 28 at 9:15.

COLEEN FITZGIBBON:____________________________________

Eric Mitchell
1979, 53 min, 16mm-to-digital. With Jennifer Miro, Eric Mitchell, Harald Vogl, Patti Astor, and John Lurie. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.
For his second feature film, No Wave filmmaker Eric Mitchell (KIDNAPPED, UNDERGROUND U.S.A.) channeled Antonioni and Pasolini in telling the tale of “a bored, disenchanted woman in post-war Italy.” Though RED ITALY is relatively conventional in its storytelling, its No Wave spirit is reflected in Mitchell’s ingenuity in conjuring up an Italian milieu by filming in New York’s espresso bars, Italian restaurants, and other Italy-evoking locations, while its preoccupation with boredom and spiritual malaise are entirely in keeping with Mitchell’s other work.

Tina L’Hotsky SNAKE WOMAN 1977, 15 min, digital
Like RED ITALY, SNAKE WOMAN illustrates the No Wave genius for quickly and cheaply transmuting NYC into even the most exotic locales: directed by writer, filmmaker, and downtown scenester Tina L’Hotsky, and parodying 1940s adventure movies, its story of a woman (Patti Astor) conquering the wilds of Africa was shot entirely within Central Park.
Wed, May 23 at 7:00.

Tom Gries
1977, 101 min, 35mm. With Muhammad Ali.
A strange case of a scripted biopic starring the subject himself, THE GREATEST finds Muhammad Ali recreating his early training (Ernest Borgnine plays his trainer Angelo Dundee), his first title fight against Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, and culminates in the long court battle that resulted from his refusal to fight in Vietnam. Featuring the strange spectacle of Ali playing himself, alongside Borgnine, John Marley, Robert Duvall, and James Earl Jones as Malcolm X, it’s a fascinating case of self-representation. When director Tom Gries passed away immediately after principal photography, the great Monte Hellmann stepped in to oversee the editing and post-production on Gries’s behalf.
Wed, May 23 at 9:00 and Sat, May 26 at 2:00.

JAMES NARES:__________________________________________

Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet
1970, 88 min, 35mm. In French with projected English subtitles. Archival print courtesy of the Cinémathèque Française.
“OTHON adapts a lesser-known Corneille tragedy from 1664, which in turn was based on an episode of imperial court intrigue chronicled in Tacitus’s HISTORIES. The costuming is classical, and the toga-clad cast enacts the drama’s original French text amidst the ruins of Rome’s Palatine Hill while the noise of contemporary urban life hums in the background. Their lines are executed with a terrific flatness, and the language in OTHON becomes less an expression than a thing itself, an element whose plainness here alerts us to qualities of the work which might otherwise be subordinated.” –Thomas Beard
Thurs, May 24 at 7:00 and Sun, May 27 at 7:00.

Wim Wenders
1977, 126 min, 35mm-to-DCP
Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with THE AMERICAN FRIEND, a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel RIPLEY’S GAME. Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral American art dealer who entangles a terminally ill German everyman, played by Bruno Ganz, in a seedy criminal underworld as revenge for a personal slight – but when the two become embroiled in an ever-deepening murder plot, they form an unlikely bond. Filmed on location in Hamburg and Paris, with some scenes shot in grimy, late-seventies NYC, Wenders’s international breakout is a stripped-down crime story that features cameos by Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller, and Nicholas Ray.
Thurs, May 24 at 9:00 and Sun, May 27 at 9:00.