SATURDAY & SUNDAY

Sixteen years before he became the subject of the movie that bears his name, the doomed Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured) portrayed a character who was roughly himself in a film titled New York Beat. Not released at the time, the movie has now been unveiled as Downtown 81. If that title has a whiff of time capsule to it, it’s entirely appropriate: Playing painter, graffiti artist, and musician Jean-Michel, Basquiat appears in nearly every scene, yet the film really is a portrait not of a person, but of a place and time: the latter days of lower Manhattan’s punk era, when hip pop ranged from the playful (Kid Creole and the Coconuts) to the confrontational (James White and the Blacks) and beyond (DNA). Those three bands perform in the movie, as do the Plastics (Japan’s answer to the B-52’s, briefly) and other now-forgotten art-punkers. The point is not the story—Jean-Michel is released from a hospital just in time to be evicted from his apartment and watch his band’s equipment be stolen—but the scene and the scenesters, who include most of the members of Blondie, the film’s writer, Glenn O’Brien (as a Christian Science Monitor rock critic), and lots of people you may have read about in Please Kill Me. The result is no masterpiece, but it turns out that director Edo Bertoglio was a much better filmmaker than such N.Y.-punk peers as Amos Poe—who of course makes a cameo appearance here. The film screens at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 25, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)