Rhythm Thief (review)

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Here’s all you probably need to know about this ultralow-budget indie: Martin Scorsese loves it. He found this 1995 flick so “inventive, exciting, and original,” in fact, that he immediate came aboard for writer (with Christopher Grimm)-director Matthew Harrison’s next feature, Kicked in the Head. Produced for $30,000, Rhythm Thief, a take on punkish independence on New York’s Lower East Side, is actually reminiscent of Scorsese’s early work, the beautifully grainy black-and-white cinematography and the unvarnished, unsentimental approach perfectly capturing the hardscrabble counterculture grit of the neighborhood. Simon (Jason Andrews: Punch-Drunk Love) sells bootleg music on the city sidewalks, coming down hard on other sellers who poach his patch while getting beat up himself by the musicians whose work he steals. He lives in a rundown apartment all but empty except for a mattress and a cat. And yet life is good… until one day it isn’t. Simon is hard to like but a fascinating creature nevetheless: a true New Yorker, impossible to pin down but distinctive and unforgettable anyway. Long a cult favorite, Rhythm Thief is available on DVD now for the first time. Extras include audio commentary by Harrison, a making-of featurette, and more.

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