It’s challenging to shake the 1980s these days. This week, the decade is being the commemorated at BAM as part of its film series, “Punks, Poets & Valley Girls; Womales Directors in 1980s America.” One of those directors is Susan Seidelguy, whose films Smithereens and the more commercial Desperately Seeking Susan are a celebration of what we can, in 2019, call alt culture. They’re likewise love letters to downtown Manhattan.

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In the mid-’80s, lower Manhattan was a world unto itself, and additionally a foil to uptvery own and the suburbs. Downtvery own responded to polish through grit, to new via vintage, and also to politesse with sass. It was residence to Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Michigan-born Madonna Louise Ciccone, who by sheer force of style and also will certainly, became the poster girl of the scene.


It wasn’t easy for women to fit into the groove in the 1980s, as Desperately Seeking Susan shows. Housewives like Roberta (played by Rosanna Arquette) and grifters favor Susan (the Madonna role) existed in a world wbelow males controlled the sources. Roberta struggles to adbelow to its strictures, while her squeaky clean looking-husband leads a double life. Susan is blatant about her rebellion, and also in some ways, complimentary.

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Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

When we first satisfy Roberta, she’s playing the function of a dutiful Fort Lee housewife, wearing a mumsy Dynasty-esque silk dress. Later she’s displayed in a Vaquera-favor choir-boy collared blouse. Her transformation starts once she puts on Susan’s jacket, which is even more main to the movie than the stolen Egyptian earrings roughly which the Pink Panther-esque plot revolves. Sold in 2016 for $87,500, the jacket is a borrowed from the boys cropped tuxecarry out with a rockabilly air. Metallic jacquard via skinny animal-print lapels, its decorated earlier borrowed motifs and language from the United States dollar bill: Novus ordo seclorum, “The new order is dispatched.” Susan can be broke, but she has actually agency, which Roberta, despite her implies, does not. One of Seidelman’s concealed messperiods seems to be that love is an effective money, and also that complying with wright here your heart leads is a kind of destiny. Is it by possibility she writes the vintage shop Love Saves the Day right into the script?

There are lots of covert gems in Desperately Seeking Susan—not leastern of all Richard Hell as Susan’s sleeping boyfrifinish, Bruce Meeker. New York City doesn’t appear in the credits, yet it is a protagonist. It’s emotional to re-watch this movie currently, and also additionally motivating. Eighteenager years after the Twin Towers dropped, tright here are when aacquire rumblings of an innovative upincreasing downtown and in the outer boroughs. Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver opened the door to this new gen of iconoclasts, that are as associated to the nightlife as downtown culture remained in the 1980s and also 2000s. (Keep in mind the 20-year cycles.) Club culture is close to subculture in which apparel speaks in code. Fashion’s so corpoprice these days, Desperately Seeking Susan reminds us that clothing is an individual signifier of identification linked to location and time.