Downtown 81 - Enzian Theater

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Downtown 81

In 1981, writer and Warhol associate Glenn O’Brien, Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, a graffiti innovator and noise music artist who’d just begun to exhibit his paintings, hit the streets of lower Manhattan to make a movie about the bombed out bohemia that they knew, with a script by O’Brien, Bertoglio directing, and Basquiat, a naturally compelling presence, starring. Left incomplete due to money problems and assembled for release in 2000, Downtown 81, which follows Basquiat trying to move a painting while hustling for a place to sleep, became a window on a lost world of life on the margins and crazy creative ferment. Featuring John Lurie, Fab Five Freddy, and Debbie Harry, with musical performances by DNA, James White and the Blacks, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts—and Manhattan in all its mangy glory.

USA, 1981, 72 minutes, Not Rated, Directed by Edo Bertoglio

  • "Captures that New York moment when punk, emerging rap, art school cool and the East Village art scene were at their creative best."

    – Adrian Searle, The Guardian
  • “Downtown 81 emerges as a nostalgic portrait of pre-Giuliani Manhattan, an unruly place full of garbage, graffiti, rubble-strewn lots, unlicensed after-hours clubs and highly idealistic kids eager to make their mark as avant-garde artists and musicians."

    – Dave Kehr, New York Times
  • "There are few better time machine trips than Downtown 81. The movie offers one of the best glimpses of the artist as a young man - 80 minutes of Basquiat bounding around the city, catching shows, tagging buildings, trying to sell a painting."

    – Max Cea, GQ
  • “An extraordinary real-life snapshot of hip, arty, clubland Manhattan in the post-punk era."

    – Brendan Kelly, Variety
  • “A joyous artifact...a time machine, allowing young nostalgists to temporarily inhabit a moment that continues to inspire twenty-something culture vultures today.”

    – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter
  • “A genuine time capsule that shouldn't be missed."

    – A.D. Calvo, Hammer to Nail
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