A Time Capsule of a Gritty, Long-Gone New York

Shot on 16 mm for the shoestring sum of forty thousand dollars, Susan Seidelman’s 1982 debut feature, Smithereens, is a remarkably unvarnished time-capsule view of downtown New York City in all its grungy glory. The film’s heroine, a narcissistic young woman named Wren (Susan Berman), leaves behind her native New Jersey to chase rock-and-roll fame, sneaking into shows at the Peppermint Lounge, papering the city with flyers featuring her face, and trying to pal around with the leading lights of the fading underground (including a musician played by punk icon Richard Hell). In this clip from a supplement on our new edition of Smithereens, Seidelman and Berman recall what it was like shooting on location, without permits, in neighborhoods such as the East Village and SoHo, and how the empty lots and crumbling buildings of a city that had just come out of a bankruptcy crisis became key to the film’s scrappy texture.

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