Blank City (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Blank City2011

Blank City (2011)



Critic Consensus: Blank City pays affectionate tribute to the No Wave filmmakers' movement -- and the bygone New York City that birthed it.

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Movie Info

Before there was HD there was Super 8. Before Independent film there was Underground Cinema. And before New York there was...well, New York. Once upon a pre-Facebook time, before creative communities became virtual and viral, cultural movements were firmly grounded in geography. And the undisputed center of American - some would say international - art and film was New York City. In particular, downtown Manhattan in the late 1970's and 80's was the anchor of vanguard filmmaking. BLANK CITY tells the long-overdue tale of the motley crew of renegade filmmakers that emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous period of New York History. It's a fascinating look at the way this misfit cinema used the deserted, bombed-out Lower East Side landscapes to craft daring works that would go on to profoundly influence Independent Film today. Unlike the much-celebrated punk music scene, this era's thrilling and confrontational underground film movement has never before been chronicled. Directed by French newcomer Céline Danhier, BLANK CITY captures the idiosyncratic, explosive energy of the "No Wave Cinema" and "Cinema of Transgression" movements. Stark and provocative, the films drew name and inspiration from the French New Wave; as well as Film Noir, and the works of Andy Warhol and John Waters. Filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, Eric Mitchell, Beth B, Charlie Ahear, Lizzie Borden and Amos Poe showcased the city's vibrant grit and bore witness to the rising East Village art and rock scenes and the birth of hip hop. Short, long, color or black-and-white, their stripped-down films portrayed themes of alienation and dissonance with a raw and genuine spirit, at times with deadpan humor blurring the lines between fiction and reality. --(c) Insurgent Media

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Critic Reviews for Blank City

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (23)

No Wave filmmakers claimed their work was born out of an angry, nihilistic "no," but their legacy - and this vital documentary - suggests that they also opened up a whole other way of saying "yes."

September 23, 2020 | Full Review…

The films emerge as fascinating period pieces filled with too-cool-for-school 70s types; but the most potent figure in the film is New York itself, decrepit but glowering angrily in the background.

March 1, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

A dusty feature-length slideshow presented by aging hipsters.

March 1, 2012 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Celine Danhier combines talking heads with a flood of Super-8 and 16-millimeter film clips to create this entertaining 2010 documentary about the explosion of punk energy that propelled New York City's art, music, and cinema underground.

July 26, 2011 | Full Review…

As maddeningly undisciplined as the movie community she's exploring, but it still stands as a worthy historical document of NYC's recent past and the birth of a new way of making films.

July 15, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

As well as unearthing flavourful clips from films only determined cineastes have seen (War Is Menstrual Envy, You Killed Me First), French filmmaker Céline Danhier has reassembled many of the era's crucial players.

July 15, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Blank City


"Blank City" is a spirited and informative documentary about a group of low budget filmmakers operating in New York City in the 70's and 80's. While I could point out that the documentary could have used a better organizational and chronological structure, I think at the same time that would have clashed with the punk music like aesthetic of the movies that were made using 8mm cameras that were bought, stolen or borrowed.(I'm no legal expert but I am pretty sure that the statute of limitations has expired on all the financing via petty larceny.) Of them, some of the names might seem familiar to the casual observer like Jim Jarmusch and Steve Buscemi. And it admittedly did take a few minutes to remember where I recognized Richard Kern, now mostly known for nude photography, from. So, it is perhaps ironic that success and money killed this nascent movement, especially the gentrifying of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, home turf for so many of these artists.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A fascinating look at a New York City that is gone forever..some would say for the better, others for the worse. This is a tale of a City in decay..and the fantastic art motivated by that decay.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


"Blank City" may seem alien to viewers who don't have an affinity with punk culture, but this documentary is an engrossing look at the late-'70s, underground cinema that rose alongside New York's No Wave/CBGB's musical movements. Building on Andy Warhol's "Everybody is a director, everybody is a star" ethic, a clique of rebellious street characters grabbed Super 8 cameras and began making movies. The results were raw, amateurish and often controversial, but had a refreshing directness and lack of artifice. Few of the discussed works are well-known or readily available today (prime exceptions: Susan Seidelman's "Smithereens" and Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise"), so "Blank City" is bound to include fresh information for even hardcore film buffs. Filmmakers like Richard Kern, Eric Mitchell, Amos Poe, Beth B, Nick Zedd, Charlie Ahearn and Vivienne Dick are featured, and participating actors such as Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry, Lydia Lunch and John Lurie are interviewed. Thurston Moore (inevitably), James Chance, Ann Magnuson, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell and John Waters add further soundbites.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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