“Street Trash”, the gore farce of filmmaker Jim Muro

Bill Chepil in “Street Trash” (1987), by Jim Muro.

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Say Street Trash to a cinephile, and it is all the blessed era of video clubs that comes back to him in memory. That, too, of the cradingues B series which compensated for the frugality of the means by a debauchery of creativity. Released in 1987 in a few American theaters, Street Trash earned its cult film stripes during the heyday of VHS, before being rediscovered through DVD and Blu-ray reissues. It is the only film by its 21-year-old director, Jim Muro, then a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

The project was born in the form of an end-of-studies short film that links gags without the shadow of a narration. Writing is not the strong point of this technically keen student who has ped a small inheritance to pay for a Steadicam (camera mounted on an articulated arm). It will take the decisive intervention of one of his teachers, Roy Frumkes, for a feature film to see the light of day.

Zealot of a marginal cinema whose model is John Cavetes, Frumkes made his film debut with an educational film for his students. In 1980, he made Document of the Deada making-of of zombie (1978) by George A. Romero, master of horror cinema inseparable from his social criticism: “What I learned from Romero – and this has become my strong point – is to give the impression of doing something big with next to nothing”, said Frumkes.

At the mercy of the gangs

The teacher and the student find a small distributor who offers them 60,000 dollars to inflate the 16 mm and add new scenes written by Frumkes. They then poach unknown actors (including an actress found in a clinic for anorexics) and embark on a shoot in Brooklyn with a final budget of $850,000.

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It is precisely New York which is at the center of Street Trash. Since the mid-1970s, the metropolis has been crushed by an economic bankruptcy which has seen an explosion in crime. The white middle cles fled to the suburbs, leaving the city at the mercy of gangs and pimps – Taxi Driver (1976), by Martin Scorsese, summarized the matter. New York is a hell of violence and poverty, where the scum of society fight for their survival in a climate of tension perfectly captured by the film. Thanks to virtuoso movements from the Steadicam, Jim Muro glides over this dump where lie the bodies of the great forgotten of the Reagan era. We follow Fred and Kevin, two homeless brothers who have settled in a slum where rival gangs run rampant, surrounded by shameless shopkeepers and rotten policemen.

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