Downtown 81 (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Downtown 81 (2001)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Downtown 81 Photos

Movie Info

The film is a day in the life of a young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat, who needs to raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. He wanders the downtown streets carrying a painting he hopes to sell, encountering friends, whose lives (and performances) we peek into. He finally manages to sell his painting to a wealthy female admirer, but he's paid by check. Low on cash, he spends the evening wandering from club to club, looking for a beautiful girl he had met earlier, so he'll have a place to spend the night. Downtown 81 not only captures one of the most interesting and lively artists of the twentieth century as he is poised for fame, but it is a slice of life from one of the most exciting periods in American culture, with the emergence of new wave music, new painting, hip hop and graffiti.

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Victor Bockris
as Conversationalist at Mudd Club
Fab 5 Freddy
as Graffiti Artist
Clem Burke
as The Felons Band Member
Lee Quinones
as Graffiti Artist
Giorgio Giomelsky
as The Landlord
Marshall Chess
as The Thief
Compton Maddux
as The Chauffeur
Daniela Morera
as Mrs. Cavalcanti
Lisa Rosen
as The Maid
Steve Mass
as The Drunk
Cookie Mueller
as Second Go-Go Dancer
Tom Baker
as Go-Go Bar Habitue
Ronnie Cutrone
as Go-Go Bar Habitue
John Browner
as Go-Go Bar Habitue
Larry "Ratso" Sloman
as Go-Go Bar Habitue
Betsy Sussler
as Mudd Club Conversationalist
Patrick Geoffrois
as Mudd Club Conversationalist
Amos Poe
as Mudd Club Conversationalist
Tav Falco
as Mudd Club Conversationalist
Diego Cortez
as Mudd Club Fist-Fighter
Bradley Field
as Studio Manager
Marty Thau
as Record Mogul
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Critic Reviews for Downtown 81

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (11)

Its bygone-ness still abuzz with creativity and movement, "Downtown 81" is a celluloid scrapbook that we can all be thankful for in helping capture the rumble before takeoff.

December 5, 2019 | Full Review…

For anyone steeped in or curious about the often uncategorizable music made during this period, Downtown 81 is a joyous artifact.

October 25, 2019 | Full Review…

A fascinating if fragmented, dreamlike look at the downtown art-music-fashion scene of a yeasty, creative era.

March 7, 2002 | Rating: C+

A crudely poetic inventory of the people and places about to rock pop culture.

February 1, 2002

Performances by DNA and the Plastics alone are worth the price of admission.

November 2, 2001

Gives us a glimpse of the city as it was, suggesting that there was something revolutionary, even inspiring, about those days of not-so yore.

September 20, 2001

Audience Reviews for Downtown 81


"Downtown 81" wants to be transcendent and wants to the cognoscenti on art and culture. I'm not sure if it achieves just that (it probably doesn't,) but it does manage to capture the small pockets of culture in Manhattan that revolves around music, visual arts, fashion, etc. If anything the film is a fascinating time capsule that looks like a documentary and has the ultra-left ideas and attitudes of the people in the place imbedded in the screenplay. As the film progresses it gets more and more avant-garde, and like the hip drugged youth in the film whose ambitions only go as far as their ecstacy/ketamine/THC-suppressed drive for change, the film also feels as if it nearly loses sight of its original ambition and scope, especially in the 2nd and 3rd act. The film embraces its disjointedness and converts itself into, what might as well be, a compilation of electrifying, kinetic music videos, as inane and aimless they may be. But, at the same time it is an impeccable showcase of the area's culture and the people whom it belongs to. Other than the premise, which is still somewhat interesting, most notably with the charming ending, some choices in editing and camera angles are questionable. At best the film, which is really just an embodiment of one idea after the other, is moderately interesting. Perhaps amusing or a pleasant distraction. Just don't expect it to be nearly as enriching as it pretends to be.

Edward Stymest
Edward Stymest

Super Reviewer

Downtown 81 Quotes

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