It’s been 25 years since Wild Style, the coveted cult classic documenting the early rise of breakdancing, graffiti and Hip Hop in New York City first opened in theaters. The film is described as a “near-documentary” since it featured a cast of contemporary writers, DJs, dancers, and other characters that were mainly playing themselves. Long before these urban art forms achieved global significance though, they were still relatively obscure subcultures that media like the New York Times had an interesting way of describing. From a 1983 review:
“The film looks to be a partly improvised piece of fiction about the cheeky, highspirited art of the south Bronx, that is, subway graffiti, also known as ”writing,” and about rapping and breaking.”
“For the benefit of the uninitiated, rapping refers to a very particular kind of musical communication, in which the singer, backed by a monotonous, rhythmic beat, talks in rapid, always nervy rhymes that proclaim the singer’s superiority in one sort of endeavor or another. Like good calypso, good rapping is a mixture of the primitive, sophisticated and topical.”
“Breaking, or break-dancing, is a way of dancing to these and other forms of music, a religious experience with extraordinary athletic skills. The high point of a great break- dancer’s turn may be a pirouette on his head.”
Fast forward a quarter of a century and the whole game has changed considerably. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, the Film Forum will screen Wild Style at 10pm for a week straight starting November 14th. Director Charlie Ahearn will be on hand with “special guests” both Friday and Saturday night.