Jean-Michel Basquiat is, of course, now known as one of the most important and influential artist of the late 20th century. But back when he was still a struggling artist trying to settle on his vision, and made a name for himself, he starred as himself, a struggling young artist, working to raise the cash to prevent his eviction, in the low budget docu-drama “Downtown 81.”
Made in 1980-1981, directed by Edo Bertoglio, and written and produced by Glenn O’Brien (who knew Basquiat from his appearances on O’Brien’s public access TV show “TV Party”), the film presented a hard core, unflinching version of New York City during that period – needless to say, quite a different place than it is today.
Back in those days, the area was occupied by abandoned buildings, graffiti, drug dealers, prostitutes, strip clubs and porn shops. But there was also an ongoing vibrant underground scene with new music, new talent, new art and new expression all merging into one powerful force of energy.
“Downtown 81” became an instant cult classic when it was finally released, almost 20 years later, in 2000, making its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, 12 years after Basquiat’s death in 1988. It helped further cement Basquiat’s stardom in the art world. But it’s an underseen film that’s been rarely screened; in the past, when it has been screened, it’s usually from a sub-par print, or inferior video copies.
Finally, last year, North American distributor, Music Box Films, and Submarine Deluxe, released a remastered and restored version on digital VOD debut on June 24th.
And today, a year later, the company has announced that, for the first time ever, the New York Beat Movie, which took nearly 20 years to complete, and which has become an indie cult-classic, will be released as a digitally restored collector’s edition on DVD this month, with special bonus features that include: archival footage, interviews, audio commentary, a special 32-page collector’s booklet and more.
While the film was shot in 1981, it was not actually completed until 2000, twelve years after Basquiat’s untimely death. Now, 15 years after its NYC debut, “Downtown 81′ will be available on DVD beginning June 30, 2015 by Music Box Films and Submarine Deluxe.
The “Downtown 81” cast included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Deborah Harry, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, DNA, Tuxedo Moon, the Plastics, and Walter Steding and the DragonPeople.
The film features an eclectic soundtrack with music by Blondie, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Gray, Liquid Liquid, Walter Steding, John Lurie, Marvin Pontiac, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Melle Mel.
For more information, visit: http://www.musicboxfilms.com/downtown81.