I've been intrigued by Jean-Michel Basquiat for years. I'm a fan of his paintings and I really enjoyed the biopic Basquiat. Watching Downtown 81 was getting to experience just a tiny piece of his life and the art world he surrounded himself in. While the film is fiction, you get a good understanding of what his life must have been like.
Much of the movie is a homeless Basquiat walking around New York carrying
a painting and a bag with spray paint. Watching him create art on the
fly is such an amazing treat. How wonderful that this was caught on
film, especially since he died at age 27.
Beyond this, you get to see New York in 1981 and expereince some incredible music. I was amazed at how relevant the music still is; you could easily hear most of the songs on the soundtrack on the radio today. Here are a few bands from the movie: Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Tuxedomoon, DNA, and Gray (Basquiat's band).
When I was watching Downtown 81, I couldn't believe how much Basquiat sounded like Saul Williams. Much to my chagrin, it turns out that it is Saul Williams. The dialogue audio for the film was lost, so Saul dubbed Basquiat's voice for the film.