Mondo New York (1988)

29% – Critics
29% – Audience

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Mondo New York Movie Reviews

New York bizarro

This shockumentary focuses on the seamier side of NYC. It features cockfights, junkies, street hookers, S&M clubs, unhinged performance artists, drag acts, street comics, a voodoo ceremony and some ropey music acts. It features some controversial stuff for sure, with some animal violence and hard drug taking, while some of the people featured also appear to be mentally ill. Its not always interesting but it is always strange.

Perfectly Excellent

Brilliant documentary about the performance art scene in NYC.

Joe Coleman’s geek show might put a lot of people off though.

The best part of this was seeing Charlie Barnett (D.C. Cab) and Rick Avilies (Ghost, Carlito’s Way) do their great stand up in the park.

Both men had me rolling on the floor.

We follow a college age woman as she walks through the lower east side visiting performances and museums.

We see a voodoo ritual as well.

This should be kept in circulation for having the best footage of the late John Sex.

If you like weirdness, and aren’t hypersensitive, check this one out.

sicko psycho sucko sex … I loved it!

‘Mondo New York’ is sick, twisted, perverted and has absolutely no socially-redeeming value. I loved every second of it!

This movie purports to be a documentary look at some of the strange performance art in New York City’s East Village, but ‘Mondo New York’ is the cinematic equivalent of those old-time pornographic paperbacks that pretended to be medical case studies: the whole point of this movie is to wallow gratuitously in the excess and sleaze shown on screen.

One of the earliest (and best) turns in this film is the classically-trained Phoebe Legere, performing on her accordion a song called ‘Marilyn’ (about guess-which actress). Ms Legere has one of the most beautiful singing voices I’ve ever heard, and the fact that this voice emerges from an incredibly sexy body makes things even more interesting. By the end of her song, Ms Legere is lying supine on the floor and pumping her accordion in a way that seems downright lascivious, while flailing her legs and never skipping a beat. Her revealing costume makes it clear that she shaves.

A more surprising turn (slightly less enjoyable) is provided by performance artist Ann Magnuson, who shows up in a bright sunlit exterior that looks like Central Park (strange, as this movie is set in the East Village on a dark night). Magnuson is wearing an elaborate fairy-princess get-up, and reciting a saccharine fairy tale. This is very much a departure from Ann Magnuson’s usual ‘performance art’, which I’ve seen onstage.

WARNING: Don’t eat anything during Karen Finley’s routine. Nor a couple of the others.

The one thing I didn’t like about ‘Mondo New York’ was its hypocritical framing device. We see a very attractive young blonde woman (Shannah Laumeister) who strides from one alternative-theatre venue to another, in the Alphabet City region of lower Manhattan. Her sequences are shot and edited in a manner that encourages us to identify with her. (An interesting decision, as the target audience for this film is probably young males who have no desire to identify with a woman.) She seats herself in the audience of a performance space, and the act begins. Now here’s where it gets hypocritical: whenever the act onstage reaches the borders of tastelessness (which happens pretty often), the blonde chick gets up and leaves, shaking her head in dismay … but the camera stays behind to catch the act in all its disgusting glory. Only after the act is over do we cut back to the blonde woman striding through the streets to the next venue. We see this happening over and over. Obviously, we’re meant to congratulate ourselves that we (like this blonde chick) have the good taste to get up and walk out whenever the onstage action is getting too tasteless … except that (unlike the blonde chick) we also stay behind and watch all the perversion. That dishonesty — not the perversion itself — is what I find so offensive about this movie. Still, she sure is a nice-looking blonde chick. Not as sexy as Phoebe Legere, though.

On second thought, ‘Mondo New York’ actually has some socially-redeeming value, because years from now people will wonder what all that fuss was about concerning something called ‘performance art’. This movie will show them … and it will prove that ‘performance art’ was usually something very empty and pretentious. But sometimes very sexy. I’ll rate ‘Mondo New York’ 8 points out of 10 … but keep the barf bags handy.