Blank City never quite captures the anarchy and energy of its subject.
You might not realise it, but you’ve seen Blank City before. Or an echo of it, at least, whether in the films of Jim Jarmusch and John Waters, the music of Blondie, Patti Smith and The Ramones, or in the Warholian lyricism of Fab 5 Freddy.
Each of these transgressive artists (and many others like them) emerged during the countercultural ‘No Wave’ scene that exploded out of the NewYork underground onto the putrid streets of the East Village in the 1970s before disappearing up its own arse in the following decade.
Debut documentarian Celine Danhier repackages this post-punk revolution into a strained 90-minute nostalgia trip comprised of talking heads, ‘I-was-there’ retrospection and scratchy Super 8 archive footage. The likes of Debbie Harry and Steve Buscemi (a regular in the no-budget films of Eric Mitchell) used the movement as a springboard to greater things, and accordingly they can only offer a potted history of events.
Others such as Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd and Amos Poes romanticise the '70s by savouring every speck of Manhattan grime left under their fingernails. These low-rent rabble-rousers are the film's lifeblood, impassioned as they in their misty-eyed anecdoting, but Danhier too regularly cuts them off in their stride.
Resultantly, while the soundtrack is predictably great, this acid-laced scrapbook for saggy-faced hipsters never quite captures the anarchy and energy of its subject.
The faces are familiar but less so the 'No Wave' scene that links them.
A well-intended but ultimately muddled valentine to a bygone era of artistic rage and rebellion.
A dusty feature-length slideshow presented by aging hipsters.