Arena Brains (1987)

Arena Brains Poster

A short film by painter-turned-filmmaker Robert Longo, "Arena Brains" is a series of interlocking vignettes set in and around the art world of 1980s New York City, satirizing the neuroses and eccentricities of this milieu.

"Arena Brains" is a 1987 American satirical black comedy short film directed by Robert Longo, including an ensemble cast that consists of Ray Liotta, Sean Young, Michael Stipe, and Eric Bogosian, among others. The film was produced by Andrew Fierberg and Tina Manis and has a runtime of 30 minutes. The film operates on numerous socio-political levels, someplace in between art, culture, and commentary on the nature of fame and success in the late '80s New York City art scene.

"Arena Brains" examines the presence and life options of its characters through a series of connected vignettes. The characters are primarily artists, intellectuals, and socialites in New York City. Through a day in their lives, the film slams the social and political issues within the art world and celeb culture in the 1980s. It's a societal review under the guise of a narrative brief film, utilizing satire to resolve the intricacies of success, individualism, competitors, and authenticity in the art scene and beyond.

Character Exploration
The characters in "Arena Brains" live in constant battle to make their mark, to be acknowledged, accepted, or perhaps simply seen. They vary in between minutes of elation and anguish, between the rush of success and the fear of failure. Ray Liotta represents a conceited artist who uses his ambition as both armor and weapon, looking for popularity and prestige as much as artistry itself. On the other hand, Sean Young acts as a voice of factor, criticizing and questioning the shallow vanity of the art scene.

Visual Expression
Aesthetically, the film embraces a distinct aesthetic that mirrors the artistic output of its characters, presenting a gallery-like collection of different "performances". The film is filled with static, made up shots, some verging on the abstract, rendering the review on the artistic social scene's superficiality a lot more palpable.

Significance and Commentary
"Arena Brains" uses its characters and settings as symbolic representations of various aspects of the art world. The "arena" of the title is the battleground of the art world, where the characters scramble for eminence, status, and recognition. On this battleground, vanity, ego, talent, and desire for approval all entered into play.

Throughout the film, the director appears to ask whether credibility and genuine creativity can endure in such an environment and what cost the artists must pay to get approval and reach the pinnacle of their picked career course. It's an intriguing commentary on the nature of the art market and the characters driving it - the ones who exploit this scenario for their benefit, and the ones who become victims of it.

Overall, "Arena Brains" can be deemed a review on the short lived nature of success and a research study on the cynicism, ambition, and narcissism prevalent in the New York City art scene in the late 1980s. It delivers through engaging performances, specifically by Liotta, and aesthetically plain and aesthetically pleasing cinematography. The satirical technique serves to underscore the severity of its critique, leading to a thought-provoking and aesthetically striking film.

Top Cast