No Wave Cinema

No wave cinema was an underground filmmaking movement that flourished on the Lower East Side of New York City from about 1976 to 1985. Sponsored by and associated with the artists group Collaborative Projects or "Collab",[1] no wave cinema was a stripped-down style of guerrilla filmmaking that emphasized mood and texture above other concerns -- similar to the parallel no wave music movement.[2]

Prominent figures

This brief movement, also known as New Cinema (after a short-lived screening room on St. Mark’s Place run by several filmmakers on the scene), had a significant impact on underground film. No wave cinema spawned the Cinema of Transgression (Scott B and Beth B, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Tessa Hughes-Freeland and others) and a new generation of independent filmmaking in New York (Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Steve Buscemi, and Vincent Gallo).[3]

Other filmmakers associated with the movement included Charlie Ahearn, Manuel DeLanda, Vivienne Dick, Eric Mitchell, James Nares, Amos Poe, Susan Seidelman and Casandra Stark Mele.

In 1978, Nares released a well-known no wave Super 8 film titled Rome 78, his only venture into feature-length, plot-driven film. Despite its large cast in period costumes, the work was not intended as a serious undertaking, as the actors interject self-conscious laughter into scenes and deliver seemingly improvised lines with over-the-top bravado. The film features no wave cinema regular Lydia Lunch along with Mitchell, James Chance, John Lurie, Judy Rifka, Jim Sutcliffe, Lance Loud, Mitch Corber, Patti Astor, artist David McDermott of McDermott & McGough, and Kristian Hoffman, among others.[4]

Coleen Fitzgibbon and Alan W. Moore created an 11:41-minute film in 1978 (finished in 2009) of a no wave concert to benefit Colab called "X Magazine Benefit”, documenting performances of DNA, James Chance and the Contortions, and Boris Policeband in NYC in the late 1970s. Shot in black and white Super 8 and edited on video, the film captures the gritty look and sound of the music scene during that era. In 2013 it was exhibited at Salon 94, an art gallery in New York City.[5]


In 2010, French filmmaker Céline Danhier created a documentary film titled Blank City. The film presents an oral history of the no wave cinema and Cinema of Transgression movements[6] through interviews with Jarmusch, Kern, Buscemi, Poe, Seidelman, Ahearn, Zedd, John Waters, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Jack Sargeant. The soundtrack includes music by Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, James Chance and the Contortions, Bush Tetras and Sonic Youth.[7][8]

In 2011, the Museum of Arts and Design celebrated the movement with the retrospective "No Wave Cinema", which included works by Jarmusch, Kern, Mitchell, Poe, Zedd, Scot and Beth B., Lizzie Borden, Edo Bertoglio and Kembra Pfahler.[9][10]

Like the later Dogme 95 creative movement, No Wave Cinema has been described as a defining period in low budget film production.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Marc Masters, (2007) No Wave, Black Dog Publishing, London, p. 141
  2. ^ NO WAVELENGTH: THE PARA-PUNK UNDERGROUND: Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman discusses the New York New Wave film scene, including lo-fi super 8 films of Vivienne Dick
  3. ^ NO WAVELENGTH: THE PARA-PUNK UNDERGROUND: Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman discusses the New York New Wave film scene, including lo-fi super 8 films of Vivienne Dick
  4. ^ Rebellion of the quiet Retrospective of James Nares, No Wave’s subtlest filmmaker
  6. ^ IMDB Blank City (2010)
  7. ^ "Blank City" - official film website
  9. ^ "No Wave Cinema". Museum of Arts and Design. Museum of Arts and Design. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  10. ^ Robbins, Christopher. "See Classic, Rare New Wave/No Wave/Punk At Museum Of Art And Design". Gothamist. Gothamist, LLC. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  11. ^ Coulter, Tomas (2004). "Low-budget movements that defined cinema": 26.

External links

  • Official Myspace page for "Llik your idols", a documentary about the Cinema of Transgression & No Wave Cinema
Amos Poe

Amos Poe is an American New York City-based director and screenwriter, described by The New York Times as a "pioneering indie filmmaker."

Cinema of Transgression

The Cinema of Transgression is a term coined by Nick Zedd in 1985 to describe a New York City-based underground film movement, consisting of a loose-knit group of like-minded artists using shock value and humor in their work. Key players in this movement were Zedd, Kembra Pfahler, John Waters, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Casandra Stark, Beth B, Tommy Turner, Richard Kern, and Lydia Lunch, who in the late 1970s and mid-1980s began to make very low-budget films using cheap 8 mm cameras.

Zedd outlined his philosophy on the Cinema of Transgression in "The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto", published under the name Orion Jeriko in the zine The Underground Film Bulletin (1984–90).Cinema of Transgression continues to heavily influence underground filmmakers. In 2000, the British Film Institute showed a retrospective of the movement's work introduced by those involved in the production of the original video films.

Diego Cortez

Diego Cortez (born James Curtis in Geneva, Illinois) is an American art curator closely associated with the no wave period in New York City. In 1981 he curated the art show New York/New Wave. He has been a well-established art adviser since the early 1980s.

Dogme 95

Dogme 95 was a filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who created the "Dogme 95 Manifesto" and the "Vows of Chastity" (Danish: kyskhedsløfter). These were rules to create filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. It was an attempt to take back power for the director as artist, as opposed to the studio. They were later joined by fellow Danish directors Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, forming the Dogme 95 Collective or the Dogme Brethren. Dogme (pronounced [ˈdɒwmə]) is the Danish word for dogma.

Eric Mitchell (filmmaker)

Eric Mitchell is a French born writer, director and actor who moved to New York City in the early 1970s. He has acted in films such Permanent Vacation (1980) by Jim Jarmusch, but he is best known for his writing and directing his own films: Kidnapped, Red Italy, Underground U.S.A. and The Way It Is or Eurydice in the Avenues, starring Steve Buscemi, Vincent Gallo, Mark Boone Junior and Rockets Redglare.

French New Wave

New Wave (French: La Nouvelle Vague) is a French film movement which emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a form of European art cinema, and is often referred to as one of the most influential movements in the history of cinema. New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of the traditional film conventions then dominating France, and by a spirit of iconoclasm. Common features of the New Wave included radical experimentation with editing, visual style, and narrative, as well as engagement with the social and political upheavals of the era.The term was first used by a group of French film critics and cinephiles associated with the magazine Cahiers du cinéma in the late 1950s and 1960s, who rejected the Tradition de qualité ("Tradition of Quality") of mainstream French cinema, which "emphasized craft over innovation, privileged established directors over new directors, and preferred the great works of the past to experimentation." This was apparent in a manifesto-like essay written by François Truffaut in 1954, Une certaine tendance du cinéma français, where he denounced the adaptation of safe literary works into unimaginative films.Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of filmmaking presented a documentary style. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented, discontinuous editing, and long takes. The combination of objective realism, subjective realism, and authorial commentary created a narrative ambiguity in the sense that questions that arise in a film are not answered in the end.

Harris Smith (filmmaker)

Harris Smith is a filmmaker, media critic and essayist from New York City. He is one of the founding members of the Remodernist film movement and was a participating member of the first comprehensive Remodernist exhibition in the United States, Addressing the Shadow and Making Friends with Wild Dogs: Remodernism.

James Nares (artist)

James Nares (born 1953 in London, England) is a British artist living and working in New York City since 1974. Nares makes paintings and films (most notable being the No Wave Cinema Rome 78) and played guitar in the no wave group James Chance and the Contortions and with Jim Jarmusch in the Del-Byzanteens and was a founding member of Colab.

List of cinema of the world

This is a list of cinema of the world by continent and country.

List of punk films

This is a list of films about the punk subculture.

Lung Leg

Lung Leg (born Elisabeth Carr; July 8, 1963, in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American pin-up girl and actress perhaps best known for appearing on the cover of the Sonic Youth album EVOL. During the 1980s, she gained fame as a model and star of films made by the transgressive movement.

Michael Oblowitz

Michael Oblowitz is a South African filmmaker.

No-budget film

A no-budget film is a film made with very little or no money. Actors and technicians are often employed in these films without remuneration. A no-budget film is typically made at the beginning of a filmmaker's career, with the intention of either exploring creative ideas, testing ones filmmaking abilities, or for use as a professional "calling card" when seeking creative employment. No-budget films are commonly submitted to film festivals, the intention being to raise wide-spread interest in the film.

No-budget films are financed out-of-pocket by the director, who typically takes on multiple roles, else uses a crew of volunteers. Where financing is unavailable, the production is financed out of this person's own pocket.

No wave

No wave was a short-lived avant-garde music and art scene that emerged in the late 1970s in downtown New York City. Reacting against punk rock's use of recycled rock and roll clichés, no wave musicians instead experimented with noise, dissonance and atonality in addition to a variety of non-rock genres, including free jazz and funk, while often reflecting an abrasive, confrontational and nihilistic worldview. In the later years of the scene, it adopted a more playful, danceable aesthetic inspired by disco, early hip hop, and world music sources.The term "no wave" was a pun based on the rejection of commercial new wave music. The movement would last a relatively short time but profoundly influenced the development of independent film, fashion and visual art.

Remodernist film

Remodernist film developed in the United States and the United Kingdom in the early 21st century with ideas related to those of the international art movement Stuckism and its manifesto, Remodernism. Key figures are Jesse Richards and Peter Rinaldi.

Rock My Religion

Rock My Religion (1984) is a 55:27 minute black and white and color no wave experimental art film by Dan Graham.

Steve Buscemi

Steven Vincent Buscemi (, Italian: [buʃˈʃɛːmi]; born December 13, 1957) is an American actor and director. Buscemi has starred in many films, including Parting Glances, New York Stories, Mystery Train, Reservoir Dogs, Desperado, Con Air, Armageddon, The Grey Zone, Ghost World, Big Fish, and The Death of Stalin. He is also known for his supporting roles in the Coen brothers films Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski. He provides the voice of Randall Boggs in the Monsters, Inc. franchise and Wayne the Werewolf in the Hotel Transylvania film series, respectively.

From 2010 to 2014, Buscemi portrayed Enoch "Nucky" Thompson in the critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, which earned him two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe and two nominations for an Emmy Award. He made his directorial debut with Trees Lounge, of which he starred. His other works include Animal Factory, Lonesome Jim and Interview. He has directed episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, The Sopranos, Oz, 30 Rock and Nurse Jackie.

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Tessa Hughes-Freeland is a British-born experimental film maker, writer living in New York City. Her films have screened internationally in North America, Europe and Australia and in prominent museums and galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York; and the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin. She has collaborated on live multi-media projects with musicians like John Zorn and J. G. Thirlwell. She and Ela Troyano co-founded the New York Film Festival Downtown in 1984 and served as its co-directors until 1990. Hughes-Freeland later served as President of the Board of Directors of the Film-Makers Co-Operative in New York City from 1998-2001. She has published articles in numerous books, including “Naked Lens: Beat Cinema” and “No Focus: Punk Film,” and in periodicals including PAPER Magazine, Filmmaker magazine, GQ, the East Village Eye, and Film Threat.Hughes-Freeland works in a variety of formats and mediums, and her films have been shown in diverse venues, ranging from internationally prominent museums to seedy bars in gritty neighborhoods. Her work frequently confronts conventional perceptions of reality in daring and sometimes provocative ways. Hughes-Freeland's website describes her work as "confrontational, transgressive, provocative and poetic". The critic Jack Sargeant wrote that Hughes-Freeland "approaches filmmaking in a multiplicity of styles, ranging from classic narrative to experimental 'performances' and even a documentary."Hughes-Freeland was part of the No Wave Cinema movement that began in the mid-1970s on New York City's Lower East Side, which included Scott B and Beth B, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Steve Buscemi, and Vincent Gallo. In the 1980s, this morphed into the Cinema of Transgression, in which she and other Lower East Side artists and filmmakers created no-budget films and art that contravened prevailing conventions of American society and challenged established, "correct" cultural norms. Among the earliest admirers of her work were the controversial, celebrated late artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, who bought her a super 8 camera for her filmmaking, and the writer, critic and curator Carlo McCormick, whom she later married.

Underground film

An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing.

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