"Downtown 81" is an intriguing time capsule of New York City's art and music scene in the early 1980s. Directed by Edo Bertoglio and starring a young Jean-Michel Basquiat, the film follows the life of a struggling artist and musician as he navigates the gritty streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side.
The plot is somewhat loose and fragmented, reflecting the chaotic energy of the time and the bohemian lifestyle of its protagonist. This may be off-putting to some viewers who prefer a more structured narrative. However, the movie serves as an authentic documentation of the vibrant and raw artistic community that thrived during this era.
The acting, particularly by Basquiat and Debbie Harry, is raw and naturalistic, providing a candid glimpse into their lives as artists. The cinematography captures the gritty aesthetic of the city with a mix of handheld shots and more composed scenes, giving the film a documentary-like feel.
The direction by Bertoglio is commendable for its ability to convey the mood and spirit of the time, although at times it can feel uneven. The film's pacing may seem slow to modern audiences, but it allows for a deeper immersion into the world of Downtown 81.
The music in the film, featuring various punk, new wave, and no wave bands, is a standout element, accurately reflecting the eclectic and experimental sounds of the time. The soundtrack is an auditory treat for fans of underground music from the early '80s.
In summary, "Downtown 81" is a fascinating look at the art, music, and street culture of early 1980s New York City. While its plot and pacing may not be for everyone, it offers a unique window into a bygone era and the beginnings of influential artists like Basquiat.