Downtown 81  

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Downtown 81 (a.k.a New York Beat Movie) is a film that was shot in 1980-1981.

This film, directed by Edo Bertoglio, written by Glenn O'Brien and produced by O'Brien and Maripol, is a rare real-life snapshot of ultra-hip subculture of post-punk era artistic Manhattan. Starring renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (who died in 1988 at age 27) and featuring such early Village hipsters as James Chance, Amos Poe, Walter Steding, and Tav Falco, the film is a bizarre elliptical urban fairytale.


The film opens with Jean (Basquiat) in the hospital with an undisclosed ailment. After checking out, he happens upon an enigmatic woman, Beatrice (Anna Schroeder), who drives around in a convertible. He arrives at his apartment only to discover that his landlord, played by former Yardbirds manager Giorgio Giomelsky, is evicting him.

Later, while trying to sell his art work, he encounters many downtown New York characters, from musician Arto Lindsay and his band DNA to David McDermott to graffiti artists Lee Quinones and Fab Five Freddy. Jean eventually does manage to sell some of his art work to a rich middle-aged woman who is interested in more than just his art, but she pays with a check. As the film progresses, he wanders the streets of New York, looking for Beatrice. He catches performances by Kid Creole and the Coconuts and James White and the Blacks. Finally he happens upon a bag lady (Debbie Harry) who turns into a princess when he kisses her. As a reward, she gives him a stack of cash.


Abandoned in the mid-'80s due to financial problems, producers O'Brien and Maripol resurrected the film after acquiring the rights in 1999. It premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. The soundtrack features many artists including Tuxedomoon, Melle Mel, Vincent Gallo, John Lurie, and Basquiat's own band Gray.

The audio was lost for the film, so actor Saul Williams dubbed Basquiat's dialogue.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Downtown 81" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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