A newly restored edition of Downtown 81, an early 1980s film showcasing Manhattan's art scene and starring then-unknown Jean-Michel Basquiat, will be coming to the big screen and taking audiences back in time. While it will eventually hit select theaters across the country, NYC gets to see it FIRST, and SOON. (Or, well, maybe after Tampa, but shhhhhh all in due time.)
Downtown 81 opens at Metrograph (7 Ludlow Street) on October 25th, with a wider rerelease starting in November. Written by Glenn O'Brienn (formerly "The Style Guy" of GQ, a denizen of Andy Warhol's Factory, and editor of Warhol's Interview) and directed by Edo Bertoglio (a Swiss photographer), the film follows a then-19-year-old Basquiat on a fanciful, "fairy tale" journey through the downtown scene in 1981, as he tries to sell a painting to pay his rent. Along the way, Basquiat encounters a slew of underground creatives including John Lurie, Debbie Harry, Steve Mass of the Mudd Club, and Fab Five Freddy, and brings the audience to live performances by Kid Creole and the Coconuts, DNA, James White and the Blacks, and more (recorded in the mobile studio the Rolling Stones used to make Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers).
It is, per Metrograph, a tour through "Manhattan in all its mangy glory," and "a window on a lost world of life on the margins and creative ferment." The theater shared a clip with us ahead of the screenings, which shows Basquiat making his way through "Gotham City... the Big Apple."
It first premiered in Cannes in 2000, with a theatrical release in 2001. (At this time, the voice work was redone after the audio track was lost.) Watch the trailer below, and follow this link if you'd like to buy tickets.