New York Beat Movie (Downtown 81)
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Originally shot in 1980-81, this film, directed by Edo Bertoglio, is a rare real-life snapshot of ultra-hip subculture of post-punk era Manhattan. Starring renowned artist Jean Michel Basquiat (who died in 1988 at age 27) and featuring such early Village hipsters as Melle Mel, John Lurie, and Lydia Lunch, the film is a bizarre elliptical urban fairytale. The film opens with Jean (Basquiat) in the hospital with an undisclosed ailment. After checking out, he happens upon an enigmatic woman, Beatrice (Anna Schroeder), who drives around in a convertible. He arrives at his apartment only to… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"A fascinating if fragmented, dreamlike look at the downtown art-music-fashion scene of a yeasty, creative era."
‑ Jane Sumner, Dallas Morning News
"Gives us a glimpse of the city as it was, suggesting that there was something revolutionary, even inspiring, about those days of not-so yore."
‑ John Petrakis, Chicago Tribune
"Although Basquiat is effortlessly charismatic, he isn't given much to do; the film leans heavily on narration, much of which crosses the line separating poetic from pretentious."
‑ Mike D'Angelo, The Dissolve
"It's like being present for the opening of a time capsule."
‑ Dave White, IFilm
"A paean to funky neighborhoods before gentrification and gritty, neon-flecked streets before SUVs."
‑ Doris Toumarkine, Film Journal International
"A crudely poetic inventory of the people and places about to rock pop culture."
‑ Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
"It captures the youthful excitement of a burgeoning creative movement."
‑ Kevin Maynard, Mr. Showbiz
"Invaluable because it catches the sights, sounds and moods of a city that are of a bygone era."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"Director Edo Bertoglio and writer-producer Glenn O'Brien gave [Basquiat] little to do but walk around and look pretty."
‑ David Ehrenstein, New Times
"A film of considerable pleasure, not least the archival footage and evocation of a city and individuals fair brimming with life."
‑ ,
"Performances by DNA and the Plastics alone are worth the price of admission."
‑ Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle
"It's as a documentary that Downtown 81 is most successful."
‑ Dave Kehr, New York Times
"It's not a great film, but rather disjointed as nothing really makes sense. But considering this is the only glimpse one would ever see of Basquiat before he was discovered by Andy Warhol, this film is somewhat of a masterpiece."
‑ Wilson Morales,
"a sweet, harmless vision that never quite overcomes the lack of story..."
‑ Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"As a piece of cinematic art, this meandering, shambolic film isn't much to speak of, but as a time capsule, it's priceless."
‑ Ken Fox, TV Guide's Movie Guide
More reviews for New York Beat Movie (Downtown 81) on Rotten Tomatoes