Looking Pretty

After 20 years, Downtown 81 barely qualifies for an audience

Shot 20 years ago and languishing unfinished on the shelf until 1998, this tale of an artist working at the edges of the New York music scene would have had a hard time finding an audience back then. Now, it just barely qualifies for one. The late Jean Michel Basquiat--playing, more or less, himself--stars; he's no actor, but he's a great camera subject. Director Edo Bertoglio and writer-producer Glenn O'Brien gave him little to do but walk around and look pretty. They had more luck with the film's many musical numbers that feature Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Arto Lindsay and DNA and Walter Steding and the Dragon People. If you're a Basquiat fan, or were around in New York back then, you'll want to take a look. If not, this film has little to recommend.
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