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also known as New York Beat Movie

Downtown 811981

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  • 4.2
Starring the legendary American painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat, DOWNTOWN 81 is both a post-modernist fairytale and a vivid depiction of the downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s. The film chronicles a day in the life of a nineteen-year-old starving artist who must raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. Hoping to sell a painting to earn the rent, he wanders the downtown streets, painting in hand, encountering painters, models, junkies, graffiti artists, rappers and rockers whose lives and performances provide a slice of life from one of the most exciting periods in American culture. A virtual "lost" film, shot in 1981 but not completed and released until two decades later, DOWNTOWN 81 not only captures one of the twentieth century's most interesting and lively artists in Basquiat, but also features music from many of leading musical artists of the era including Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, James White and the Blacks, The Lounge Lizards and DNA.

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"...the only glimpse one would ever see of Basquiat before he was discovered by Andy Warhol. . .it brings back memories of New York City in the early 80s when graffiti, rock music, and art ruled." - Wilson Morales, blackfilm.com


Member Reviews (2)

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top reviewer

not a great film but the music is _NYC is & Jean-Michel Basquiat is too_ the Debby Harry scene is super cute_a lot of dumb stuff but cool wins_i've seen it before & i'll probably see it again

As a film divorced from its time period, awful. Amateurish. Inane.

As a time capsule of NY-that-was, and the magnificent defiance of the No Wave music movement, and oh yeah a performance from this kid Basquiat... watchable. Barely.

Ironic that it comes from the 80s, the decade that invented the remote control. They built in a fast-forward button for a reason.