Smithereens (1982)

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Susan Seidelman directs Susan Berman, Brad Rinn and Richard Hell in this independent about a talentless young woman trying to barge her way into NY’s dying punk scene.

Made at the tail end of punk and just before the mainstream interest in US independents, Seidelman’s debut operates in the paragraph space of the two scenes. Working best as a glancing, over the shoulder look at bankrupt New York (squats, boarded up business, rubble pits where prostitutes lurk, ballrooms turned dive bars) like Stranger Than Paradise, Beat Street or Brother From Another Planet you get the feeling you are glimpsing a long ignored and forgotten Big Apple of squalor. The destitution and colours are hypnotic. The plot following the toxic relationships and fading hustle of Berman’s Wren is at times annoying, other times sympathetic. As obnoxiously as she is portrayed you hate the sad fate suggested for her in the final moments. Seidelman retooled this uncanny ability to celebrate the free spirited but blunt with Madonna in the superior Desperately Seeking Susan. That is the better film but this has some fascinatingly unique rough edges.

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