Dir. Edo Bertoglio
With Jean-Michel Basquiat, Deborah Harry, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
73 min, 35mm
Starring the legendary American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat when he was 19 years old, and yet to have his first exhibition, ‘Downtown ‘81’ vividly depicts the explosive downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s.
The film takes place in a day in the life of a young artist who needs to raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. He wanders the downtown streets carrying a painting he hopes to sell, encountering friends. He finally manages to sell his painting to a wealthy female admirer, but he’s paid by check. Low on cash, he spends the evening wandering from club to club, looking for a beautiful girl he had met earlier, so he’ll have a place to spend the night.
The cast includes Deborah Harry, and leading bands of the era including Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, DNA, Tuxedo Moon, The Plastics, and Walter Steding and The Dragon People. Also heard on the soundtrack are Melle Mel, John Lurie, Lydia Lunch, Suicide, Vincent Gallo, Kenny Burrell and Basquiat’s own band, Gray.
“Downtown ‘81” not only captures Basquiat as young artist poised for fame, but it is a glimpse into one of the most exciting periods in American culture, with the emergence of No Wave music, new painting, hip hop, and graffiti.