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Downtown 81

DOWNTOWN 81, A “LOST” NO-BUDGET FILM shot on location in Manhattan some nineteen years ago, finally had its debut last month, at Cannes. Directed by Edo Bertoglio and written by Glenn O’Brien, this lighthearted document of the East Village scene stars a twenty-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat as himself, with countless hipster cameos, including hip-hop pioneer Fab Five Freddie, ’80s Fiorucci designer (and the film’s producer) Maripol, record-label guy Marty Thau, and Blondie chanteuse Debbie Harry as the fairy princess.

But the real star of the film is the gritty milieu of a New York long gone. A lot has happened in nineteen years. Now that the Lower East Side has become something of an Epcot simulacrum of itself, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for Ye Olde Loisaida’s antique bohemian realities: brazen dope dealers, trash-strewn lots connecting burned-out buildings, artist-musician inhabitants

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