Downtown 81

on July 13, 2001 by Lael Loewenstein
   The late Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose in 1988, played himself in this limp, ragged film about New York's downtown art and music scene. It's indisputable that Basquiat's name is the only reason this 1981 project finally found completion funds. Moreover, the intrigue surrounding the gifted young artist can be the only explanation why this completely uninvolving film secured a berth in Cannes' Directors' Fortnight. For a more revealing though still uneven look at the artist, Julian Schnabel's 1996 "Basquiat" is a much better bet.

   Press notes indicate that business problems halted the film's post-production in 1981, and subsequently parts of the film were lost in Europe. After an 18-year delay, the missing film resurfaced. Because Basquiat was no longer around to do the sound work, actor/poet Saul Williams ("Slam") furnishes the narration, and the use of Williams' voice is actually fitting for the material. Conceived as a "slice of life" representation of Basquiat's downtown scene, however, the film is instead a hopelessly rambling, amateurish mess of disjointed thoughts and imagery that does little to enhance his legend. Starring Jean-Michel Basquiat. Narrated by Saul Williams. Directed by Edo Bertoglio. Written by Glenn O'Brien. Produced by Maripol. No distributor set. Drama-fantasy. Not yet rated. Running time: 87 min

Tags: Directed by Edo Bertoglio, Written by Glenn O'Brien, Produced by Maripol, Drama fantasy

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