New York City in the late 1970s. Underground filmmakers collaborated with experimental musicians and vanguard performance artists, all on a shoestring budget, to create the most daring work of their generation. In stark contrast to the poverty and crime that seemed rampant in the economically struggling city, a community of aggressive, confrontational, vibrant artists flourished: hole-in-the-wall screening rooms abounded, manifestos circulated, and Jim Jarmusch, Nick Zedd, and Amos Poe debuted early works to an audience of their peers. These short-lived but profoundly influential movements dubbed themselves "No Wave Cinema" and "Cinema of Transgression."
Director Celine Danhier brings energy and style to her encyclopedic documentary on the figures and history of this rich but gritty era. Blank City includes compelling interviews with such luminaries as Jarmusch, Zedd, Poe, John Waters, Steve Buscemi, Lydia Lunch, Lizzie Borden, Eric Mitchell, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Bette Gordon, Glenn O'Brien, John Lurie, and anyone who was anyone in the late-'70s East Village art scene. Ample film clips from seminal works bring to life a time and a place lost to gentrification and commercialization in the '80s, but that lives on in a still-thriving tradition of avant-garde art.