Blank City

French filmmaker and journalist Celine Danhier emulated the artists of the New York No Wave movement — supposedly the genesis for today’s indy film genre — during the making of her documentary Blank City (2010). No Wave, also called the Cinema of Transgression, was born in New York during the 1970s and ’80s, and its proponents had a guerrilla-style, no-holds barred approach to art. Like them, Danhier started with just an idea and force of will; she dogged her subjects for interviews and clips, refusing to take no for an answer and working completely outside the normal boundaries of filmmaking.

The film’s title, Blank City, is apropos, since New York had just undergone a fiscal crisis and was broke at the time; hundreds of buildings around the city sat empty and in disrepair. Creative types were able to rent lofts and studio space in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhat-tan on the cheap. They christened themselves filmmakers, artists and musicians at will. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have a camera or a portfolio or even an instrument. In fact, as one talking head says in the documentary, it was better if you didn’t have any experience or training. This was spon-taneous art, with a lower-case “a.” Among the participants were Steve Buscemi, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Deborah Harry. “It was a very creative time, with no restrictions,” says Danhier. Blank City shows the group of young artists as they came together to make something out of nothing. Some of what they produced was self-indulgent, much of it was naive, but some of it became the start of something new, something they called No Wave in an effort to make their outsider status perfectly clear. 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Through August 20. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit $6 to $7.
Fridays, Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 14, 5 p.m. Starts: Aug. 12. Continues through Aug. 20, 2011

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