Movie Review – What About Me (1993) directed by Rachel Amodeo
What About Me is a small slice of a forgotten New York! An obscure, black-and-white film that is culturally, socially, and historically significant, what more could you want? I find myself strangely nostalgic for the East Village in the early nineties. I previously read Don DeLillo’s Mao II, which spends time describing the gruesome homeless encampment in Tompkins Square Park, so the footage in this movie is a treat because it preserves a world and a culture that no longer exists.
The beginning of the movie is a little surreal, as you see a young girl come out of a house to go on a bike ride, she then rides past a cemetery and falls from a cliff to her death. Next, the girl has a conversation with God, and is reincarnated as Lisa Napolitano. Lisa loses her parents, goes to live with her aunt in the East Village, loses her aunt, and then is raped by the building landlord, who evicts her from the apartment a day later. The rest of the movie is concerned with Lisa trying to survive on the streets.
The film has a spontaneity and an aesthetic that feels much older, almost like a silent film. I am still mulling over the significance of Lisa’s previous life and reincarnation, though it doesn’t have much of an impact on the general plot. I believe the structure of the movie (and the movie’s biggest strength) is to allow for vignettes. A punk Casanova named Tom is shown picking up a girl at a bar, and later introduces Lisa to crack cocaine. Lisa is invited to stay at the house of a woman who turns out to be a dominatrix. Gangsters enact revenge on a man coming out of an apartment building. These scenes blend into the story well, without taking the film too far astray. Many counter-culture icons make cameos in the film, with Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Thunders, and Gregory Corso among them.
Tompkins Square Park, February 2018
Having spoken with an old friend of mine, who has been driving cabs in the city since the seventies, he said when going into Alphabet City, the names of the avenues indicated the degree safety. Avenue A meant that you were “alright,” Avenue B meant “be careful,” Avenue C meant “critical,” and Avenue D meant that you were “dead.” On February 2nd of this year, I ventured into the park on a cold but sunny day, to see if there were any remnants of the old scene. It honestly looked to me like any other Manhattan park. I imagine I’m very much romanticizing a world that I know nothing about, which is why more people need to see this film.
Watch the movie on Fandor here.