THOMAS PATTERSON talks with ADAM GREEN about Aladdin and its inspirations
Perhaps more than any other city, New York is renowned for its experimental and underground filmmaking, from the riotous celluloid outpourings of Jack Smith to the avant-garde creations of Shirley Clarke, Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage. And more often than not, where far-out filmmakers go, wild and wonderful music can be found – think Andy Warhol and his Velvet Underground, or Harry Smith, famed for his Anthologies Of American Folk Music, who spent years working on his masterwork Mahagonny from his room at The Chelsea Hotel.
The apex of this underground film and music interchange came with the No Wave scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s, when likeminded filmmakers and musicians came together on the lower East Side to spew forth a glorious alternative movement which has rarely been equaled. Celebrated filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Susan Seidelman emerged from the slums of NYC into the wider cinematic world, whilst notorious and outré shock merchants Nick Zedd, Richard Kern and Lydia Lunch – inspired by the works of Baltimore’s John Waters – spearheaded the Cinema of Transgression, No Wave’s snotty cousin. The soundtrack, meanwhile, was provided by the denizens of CBGBs and The Mudd Club, from Debbie Harry to James Chance and The Contortions to a fledgling Sonic Youth and beyond. Alas, rising rents and gentrification, coupled with mainstream success, sounded the death knell for the No Wave movement, and its anarchic spirit seemed forever lost.
Thankfully Adam Green, acclaimed singer-songwriter and one time member of anti-folk act The Moldy Peaches, is here to pick up the reins with his wild and wonderful new film Aladdin. A very lose reimagining of the panto tale, Aladdin is a colourful labour of love, self-financed for $250,000 in a Brooklyn warehouse, set in a papier mâché world with papier mâché props, inspired by the filmmakers like Robert Downey Sr, and Alejandro Jodorowsky. As Green says, “I guess Holy Mountain was one of my biggest influences. Jodorowsky, he’s probably my biggest inspiration of all.”
Aladdin also features a semi-all star cast that includes Natasha Lyonne, Penn Badgley, Devendra Banhart and Mr. Home Alone himself, Macaulay Culkin – according to Green, the man who acted as a satellite for other talent to jump in and help Green realise his unique vision. Read more Never Lift A Finger – Adam Green’s modern reinterpretation of No Wave