Moments Like This Never Last is a gritty 2020 documentary about street artist turned international art icon Dash Snow. Through archival footage and new interviews the film chronicles Snow’s rise to fame through his life as a liberated feral artist on the streets of NYC. Utopia and Vinegar Syndrome bring the compelling art feature to Blu-ray with an impressive A/V presentation coupled with limited bonus features. Fans of underground art won’t want to miss this feature. For Fans Only.
“Like we were living at the end of the world.”
Dash Snow rockets through the streets of pre-Disney 42nd street learning from graffiti writers till sunrise then basks in the glory of his achievements buying dope from a bodega or drinking with friends in the projects. Streetwise to no end the young artist survives on water, cigarettes, and never following the law. “Privilege without emotional support” is how director Cheryl Dunn describes Dash’s relationship with his wealthy art-collecting family. A family that sent him away to a home for troubled teens then abandoned him after he escaped and dissolved into the alleyways of New York City at age 16. With unfettered liberation and hedonism, Dash grew into an artist that would capture the world’s attention before tragically succumbing to addiction.
Dash was a street kid whose magnetism and lust for unhinged freedom through art cultivated the formation of his “IRAK” crew. This crew would dominate their slice of the underground graffiti scene not only through their expressive art but also their freewheeling lifestyle that knew no bounds. When not carrying a spray can Dash would endlessly shoot Polaroids. His sense of composition and direction seems at first glance like amateur snapshots of drunk kids partying, but upon further inspection reveals within them layers beyond the surface. Reckless and skirting all good-natured laws, the crews would party, do drugs, and create damn good street art whether through spray paint or snapshots of his friends partying naked.
Moments Like This Never Last is a love letter to a friend, artist, and social anchor from a time lost to gentrification and nationalism. A longtime documenter of Dash’s work, Cheryl Dunn crafts a film that operates with the same chaotic momentum as her subject scrambling up a building or escaping his privileged upbringing. Snow’s art jump-started a movement and brought together many, many talented people but we’re never given much of a critical analysis. I admire Dunn’s perspective which keeps us focused on the subject rather than seeing if his graphic collages hold any value beyond the stodgy collectors who want a piece of “bad boy art”.
The film gets political as Dash and his friends face the onslaught of governor Rudy Giuliani’s leadership which attacks graffiti artists for merely possessing a Sharpie. Dash vents a bit on the police state of America before we cut to 9/11 and witness director Cheryl Dunn pointing her 16mm camera out of her studio window to see hundreds of people racing down her street followed by a rush of ash and dust. This cataclysmic event would inspire Dash and his crew to imbue their work with the detritus from their local apocalypse. The once metaphoric themes of living in a toxic war zone are now made real. Within three years of 9/11 the most dangerous place in the city filled with murder, vandalism, theft, and lawless kids running around suddenly filled with American flags, tourists, and becomes the only spot in NYC people wanna visit.
My favorite moment is when we are taken through Dash’s apartment hearing a colorful description through narration. When the narrator stops midpoint we hear, “And you may have even been there at some point in time” which oozes with hopeful nostalgia. I love how they are just assuming whoever is watching this could have possibly been to Dash’s chaotic mindstorm of an apartment one night. This speaks volumes to me about the tight-knit community that opened itself up to the whole creative underground in NYC.
Moments Like This Never Last succeeds in its unvarnished perspective of the world inhabited by Dash and his crew of motley creators. Depictions of sex, violence and drug use are unfiltered presenting things as they were. Director Cheryl Dunn spent years with Dash chronicling his every work and those around him. Graffiti is the most accessible way to understand and experience his output as an artist but those boxes of instant pictures revealed the artist searching for the art. Dash was in the business of capturing pure moments in hopes of finding his way through life to find meaning. For anyone who has ever glanced at a cherished old photo, you’ll understand why Moments Like This Never Last.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Moments Like This Never Last arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Utopia and Vinegar Syndrome. The Region A Blu-ray is housed in a standard transparent keepcase. The disc loads the Utopia logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes of the film playing on a Polaroid picture next to typical navigation options.
Moments Like This Never Last arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded image in the film’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Utilizing archival footage from various sources combined with new interview segments the HD image is quite impressive. The grainy elements have plenty of life even when they’re filled with bulky noise and ragged damage. New footage and art pieces are well defined with confident primaries, detailed textures, and excellent depth. Fine detail is evident on interview subjects from clothing textures and facial features. Black levels are solid throughout the feature giving plenty of information in low light settings and shadows.
The only available audio track is a solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix that carries the proceedings confidently. Moments Like This Never Last is dialogue heavy film that provides clear exchanges whether from new interviews and narration or frenzied elements from 16mm or MiniDV. Music cues never overpower the texture but aid in developing the film’s atmosphere and tone whether its punk bass lines rattling the scene or grungy guitar riffs.
While slim on the bonus features Utopia and Vinegar Syndrome do provide a director interview that is an insightful featurette worth watching.
Moments Like This Never Last profiles an artist that exemplifies the underground art movements that bridged the graffiti artists of the 90’s to the trash art scene that exploded in the early 2000’s. The film deftly uses archival footage to place us in the moments created by Dash Snow and his group of talented friends which creates an inspirational and compelling look at their liberated yet feral lifestyle. Utopia and Vinegar Syndrome bring the film to Blu-ray with an impressive A/V presentation coupled with a few worthwhile bonus features. Those interested in the NYC art scene will enjoy the film. For Fans Only.