New York No Wave Cinema and Music Revisited in Berlin

     |    Thursday, der 2. June 2011

On June 4th and 5th, Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) theater will host a retrospective of films that were produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s in New York City. Known loosely under the term “No Wave” (coined as a reaction to the use of the term “new wave” describing the post-punk, avantrock music and most likely as an homage to the groundbreaking “nouvelle vague” (French for, erm, new wave) movement in cinema), the films that emerged from this scene celebrated DIY production values (widespread use of Super 8 and 16mm, on occasion also video), and crossover with other artforms (musicians like John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards or Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry – pictured left – acted in and on occasion directed films; directors, actors and visual artists like Jim Jarmusch; Vincent Gallo and Jean-Michel Basquiat had bands etc.). While the No Wave films certainly explored new cinematic vocabularies, it was notable that unlike other underground or avantgarde film movements, narrative and genre were not eschewed but embraced, even if as parody, pastiche, mash-up or reference.

This weekend’s program at HAU encompasses rarely seen short films by John Lurie, Bette Gordon, Vivienne Dick, James Nares, Tessa Hughes Freeland, Eric Mitchell, Beth B. & Scott B., David Wojnarowicz and many others. Co-curator (with Berlin-based Christoph Gurk) Christian Höller, who also initiated the whole No Wave film retrospective (which has previously been shown at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Vienna Film Museum) will provide an introductory lecture; author Marc Masters will delineate No Wave’s interplay between cinema and music. Masters and Höller will be joined by director Beth B., German director and musician (of Berlin post-punks Die Haut) Christoph Dreher and Berlin-based Austrian film crtic Bert Rebhandl for a concluding panel.

Sunday night’s program offers a particular highlight – a rare live appearance by leading No Wave saxophonist and band leader James Chance with a new line-up of his combo the Contortions.

Available on Amos Poe’s feature-length No Wave film THE FOREIGNER (starring Eric Mitchell and featuring Deborah Harry) as well as NIGHT LUNCH, a mid-1970s musical prequel to the No Wave scene (with live footage of New York punk icons Patti Smith, the New York Dolls, the Ramones and Television) and Poe’s recent Andy Warhol homage EMPIRE II (with music by Smith).