“Blank City” and New York “Back in the Day”

Posted by Jason Diamond

From what I’ve gathered, every moment in New York City history is better than the one before it, and this is the cycle that will continue until we finally leave this place to the cockroaches — which incidentally almost happened in the 1970s, when the Big Apple was perpetually fucked, making modern day Detroit look polite and Midwestern.

The new film Blank City sets out to document the history of “No Wave Cinema” and “Cinema of Transgression.”  It also does one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen of highlighting exactly how fucked New York (specifically the now gentrified Lower East Side) exactly was.

I’ve long had a fascination with the two movements discussed in the film.  While my interest in No Wave is more focused on the bands that came out of the scene (Mars, DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), I can’t deny the spirit of the movement’s (or anti-movement) cinematic side.  Cinema of Transgression, on the other hand, I’m a bit more on the fence about.  I’ve long held the opinion that if somebody told me they ‘enjoyed’ the work of Nick Zedd or Richard Kern, I’d probably question their taste and also be a bit frightened by them.  But since I try not to judge to harshly on one’s artistic predilections, I say c’est la vie.

The footage in Blank City is interesting, and they do a good job of telling the story of how bad things were in New York.  John Lurie discussing his contempt for Basquiat, and John Waters as comic relief are entertaining, but in the end, I may have felt better rereading the dozens of testimonials I’ve already seen by the various people involved.  And instead of spending almost two hours watching clips of their films, it might be more worth your time to seek the finished products out, and decide on on your own the merit of their art.