‘Shadows in the City’ Review: A Seedy Slice of ’80s No Wave | ET REALITY


Visual artist and performer Ari M. Roussimoff and his camera crew, including cinematographer and director Ellen Kuras, crawled through the depths of 1980s Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens filming an underground horror film on film. 16 millimeter black and white. What he brought together, “Shadows in the City” (1991), is a surprising and often dizzying curiosity of No Wave cinema.

This week the Museum of Modern Art is showing the print of his collection, with a disheveled appearance and distorted audio, before its restoration. Fans of late 20th century New York City grime may want to see it in its original form, which runs through October 11. After all, it’s a film for which too much cleanup may be inadequate.

The film’s very loose story follows Paul (Craig Smith), who wanders around town grieving several deaths in his family, soliciting prostitutes, and contemplating suicide. From Times Square, he visits Lower Manhattan and the East and West sides. There’s a scary biker bar in the meatpacking district, and some possibly undead shenanigans for him in Alphabet City.

The cast is full of avant-garde artists. Taylor Mead, the savant fool of Ron Rice’s microbudget classics and one of Andy Warhol’s regulars, is here a wet slum brain. The documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio plays a magician. “Flaming Creatures” author Jack Smith is “the spirit of death.” And Nick Zedd, Joe Coleman and Kembra Pfahler represent the younger side of No Wave.

The story, such as it is, draws inspiration from both the experimental short film “Scorpio Rising” and the classic B-movie “Carnival of Souls.” (Bruce Byron, who appeared in “Scorpio,” also has a role here.) But the film is mostly driven by a nightmarish anti-logic that flings twisted images between art house and grindhouse. An end credit shows a dedication to Forrest J. Ackerman, the editor of the horror fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. The film could alternatively be titled “Famous Monsters Go Downtown.”

shadows in the city
Not qualified. Duration: 1 hour 41 minutes. On cinemas.

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