Designers of every ilk frequently mine previous generations for fashion trends, and those in search of inspiration from the Seventies or Eighties need look no further than “Blank City Film.”
Loaded with colorful footage of New York scenesters and filmmakers back in the day, the 95-minute documentary zooms in on an assortment of renegade filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Amos Poe, John Waters, Steve Buscemi and Vincent Gallo. New York viewers may find the footage of the then-barren Lower East Side and 1977 blackout-induced looting jarring. More recognizable are images of Nan Goldin, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Maripol and Beth B as their younger selves. They lived to tell the tale of No Wave Cinema, the guerrilla style underground filmmaking that spawned the Cinema of Transgression.
The director of “Blank City” is not one of those troubadours but 30-year-old, French-born Celine Danhier, whose film was three years in the making. Her day job is at Catherine Malandrino. She said the film and fashion aren’t so far apart — “each has a lot of freedom and energy.” Waters, Anna Sui, Marisa Tomei, Q-Tip, Timo Weilend and other supporters will help Danhier and producer Fisher Stevens mark the premiere Tuesday night.
Here, Danhier talks about the film.
WWD: What did you find most shocking about the footage you dug up? John Waters and others talk openly about the drug use.
Celine Danhier: There is the use of drugs [which several candidly admit to on film] and the films that were from the Cinema of Transgression are more nihilistic. But in 2011, it is very difficult to be shocked by anything.
WWD: What would you like people to take away from “Blank City”?
C.D.: The do-it-yourself attitude — if you want to, you can do anything without any restrictions. I made the film with nothing — just a credit card. I just started shooting.
WWD: Do you have a favorite clip?
C.D.: ‘You Are Not I,’ which is based on a Paul Bowles book. There is a cameo by the photographer Nan Goldin that I love.
WWD: How did you manage to persuade some of the more press-shy to be interviewed?
C.D.: Sometimes I had to harass them. Lydia Lunch was living in Barcelona, but I found out she would be at Joe’s Pub. After her show, I just went onto the stage and said, ‘You have to be in my documentary.’ She was very helpful. John Lurie told me he doesn’t like to do interviews right now. [He has Lyme’s disease.] But he told me if he changed his mind, it would be last minute. One Saturday night he called around 8 or 9 and I ran over.
WWD: What appealed to you about these movies?
C.D.: It was such a pure period. All these movies really encapsulated that creativity had no boundaries. A lot of people just took a camera and started to shoot. Everything was very collaborative. Now if you wanted to do something like that, there would be economic restrictions.