Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Smithereens

If you love NYC, you love movies about NYC, especially those that depict a real-life, on the streets, brutally honest version of it.

I can't think of a better example than director Susan Seidelman's 1982 independent movie Smithereens. Set in the East Village during the dying days of punk rock, Smithereens is about a young woman, a New Jersey-transplant named Wren, who has no money, no real friends, no particular talent (musical, artistic, or otherwise) who is trying to become part of a scene that doesn't want her. She gets kicked out of her apartment, tries to hook up with a failed rock star who mostly ignores her, and toys with the affections of a young man from Montana who lives in a van. This is a story about a nobody from nowhere destined to become nothing. It's both sad and poignant, a reminder that not all stories have happy endings.  

This movie was made for almost no money and doesn't star anyone famous, but it's a fascinating look at downtown NYC at a time when the city was dirty, dangerous, and fun. It's about people living on the fringes of the city, barely surviving in a Manhattan where you still could, some way or another, afford to starve in. It's the NYC that exists today only in memory, the city some still yearn for, that others are glad is good and buried. It's also one of the earliest independent movies, made outside the studio system, launching Susan Seidelman's career (her next film was Desperately Seeking Susan that featured a young singer named Madonna), culminating in the 1990s movie renaissance with directors like Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino. 

If you liked the Coen Brothers Inside Llewin Davis, another great movie about a homeless aspiring musician (it came out in 2013 but is set in 1961 Greenwich Village), you should check out Smithereens. It'll remind you of what this city was -- and what it's still about today. 
Seidelman herself reflect on her movie in these two great interviews:

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