Synopsis by Judd Blaise
An extended short from painter-turned-filmmaker Robert Longo, who would later helm Johnny Mnemonic, Arena Brains consists of a series of interlocking vignettes set in New York City in the late 1980s. The stories -- created by five different screenwriters, including Eric Bogosian, Richard Price, and Longo himself -- are mostly loosely structured attempts at satirizing the neuroses and eccentricities of members of Lower Manhattan's art community. This superficial, affluent subculture is presented in contrast with the reality of life on the New York City streets, as the film moves from galleries to alleyways and back again. Actors like Sean Young and Ray Liotta play small roles, while appearances by Bogosian, Ron Vawter, and other Manhattan theater and performance-art figures reinforce the film's hip, insider feel. (R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe even makes an appearance, as a mostly silent, nameless character who wanders through the various segments, observing the film's action). The result is a rather dated, uneven film that is best viewed now as a prime example of the indulgent artistic culture it intended to satirize. The marketing of the video release misleadingly emphasizes a not-so-prominent soundtrack, featuring songs by Husker Du, The Cure, P.I.L., and others.
artist, eccentric, neurotic, slice-of-life