Marcus Reichert
Interview Exclusive

Deborah Harry and Marcus Reichert on the set of Union City

To Blondie and Deborah Harry fans around the world, the name Marcus Reichert is best known as the writer/director of the film Union City, in which Deborah Harry made her big breakthrough as an actress. But what more do we know about him before and after Union City? Well, this page is here to tell you more about him and also to ask Marcus some questions.

Marcus was born in 1948 and has been working as an artist for most of his life. His solo exhibitions date back to the legendary Gotham Book Mart and Art Gallery, New York, in 1970, at the young age of only 21.

RHTS - I'm sure I've read somewhere that you're of a German background. Is that true? I assumed you were American probably because of the Union City film and seeing that a lot of your exhibitions were held in New York.

MR - I was born in America. My mother once told me the Reichert family migrated west from Alsace-Lorraine, that part of France laid claim to by both the French and the Germans. Her family is primarily English. She and my father originally lived in the coal regions of Pennsylvania where I spent my early childhood.

RHTS - So tell me when did you first realise that you wanted to be an artist? Was it something that happened by accident or was it something you'd always wanted to do?

Retrospective Exhibition 1990

MR - My father was a painter and a sculptor, so I became an artist without ever really thinking about it. I began painting in oils when I was eight. One of my pictures people like best was painted when I was ten. It looks a bit like the work of the German neo-expressionist A.R. Penck. As Mike von Joel once said: Marcus was Pencking before Penck was Pencking. So, to answer your question, I naturally became an artist by accident. 

RHTS - Your work has been exhibited in a lot of galleries around the world throughout the years, (collections in London, Paris, New York, Sao Paulo, Dusseldorf, Berlin, etc.). Is there one particular exhibition that holds some special memories more than the others?

MR - Yes, I once did an exhibition at Le Cercle Lucas-Carton in Paris, a private club that resides above the world famous restaurant Lucas-Carton. The owner of the restaurant was very proud of his kitchen and gave me an extended tour of the facilities - this was a day or two before the private view. I took away a copy of the menu and studied it with considerable enthusiasm. Bear in mind that this event was organised by my then-agent who, I believe, frequented the restaurant himself. On the evening, although I had occasion to meet some very important people and sell a few pictures in the bargain, my mind was fixed on the meal after. As the clock ticked on towards eleven, even though Parisians are renowned for dining late, I began to worry. Eventually, I discreetly asked my agent when we were going to clear the room and move on to other things. He told me he had lost track of the time and that I could go. He meant out into the night. I had a badly cooked steak and French fries across the street from my hotel. 

RHTS - I've been looking at some of your paintings, the Crucifixions especially. Where do you draw your inspiration from. I used to paint for a few years and most of my ideas came from dreams I'd had, usually surreal nightmares.

Crucifixion X, 1991

MR - My inspiration comes from the need to exist. I mean, to know that I exist. The Crucifixions are in a way about the destruction of self-knowledge. Man destroys another manís sense of himself. He controls him by desecrating his existence. I never lose track of the fact that Iím alive, but I often canít make sense why. As I donít believe in deities, I donít believe that my existence has somehow been preordained. This probably sounds terribly egocentric but I believe all serious painters want to make sense of themselves in the world through their painting. And I honestly believe we learn from each other in this way. Painting takes one back into the wonder of life. 

RHTS - After doing art for a number of years and exhibiting in different countries, what made you decide to get into making films?

MR - Iíd been interested in the cinema ever since my grandmother took me and my brother to the afternoon matinťes to get in out of the New Jersey heat. So as a child I began watching black and white films. My grandmother liked melodramas. I do too. When I read a novel, it was like watching a film unfold. The first films I made were like photographs that hadnít anywhere to go. Once you have a story, the pictures can go somewhere. It was that simple. So my first little films were essentially abstract. The actor Dennis Lipscomb and I began to make one or two-scene dramas. Practically speaking, they didnít make any sense because we werenít telling the whole story, but we found they did make sense nevertheless. It was intense, and we decided to take it farther if we could. 

Deborah Harry and Marcus Reichert on the set of Union City

RHTS - At the time of planning Union City, was Deborah Harry someone you'd wanted to work with or did that happen by chance?

MR - I of course knew who she was, but it hadnít occurred to me to work with her. That was Ed Lachmanís idea. He had become our director of photography. He knew a lot of people in New York, and he knew how to put people together.

RHTS - There's one scene in that film I've always wondered about. It's the erotic scene with Debbie on the bed. Was she OK with doing that scene, I can imagine some actors feeling a bit uneasy doing scenes of an erotic nature.

MR - Masturbation is a tricky one. Fortunately, Deborah knew - dramatically - exactly what the scene was about and why it was there. There was one very funny moment during the filming of that scene when I was lying on the floor below her and found myself breathing very loudly, sort of simulating her activity. She suddenly stopped dead, looked down at me, and said: I know how to breathe when masturbating. It took a few minutes for the crew to recover.

Deborah Harry as Lillian Harlan in Union City

RHTS - I've read in a couple of articles in the past about Union City having lots of cuts made in the editing. What are your feelings about that now, and are any of these scenes in a vault somewhere?

MR - I hate it. The cuts shouldnít have been made because we had a perfectly good film. United Artists wanted to distribute the film just as it was. The same idiots who re-cut the film left everything but their own version in the vaults at MovieLab in New York and essentially everything - including the negative - has been lost. This wasnít just a tragedy for me but for everyone involved in the production. We were proud of what weíd accomplished with no financial resources to speak of. Against all odds, the film was still warmly received by many critics. 

RHTS - I was really stunned when I watched the new re-released Union City. Mainly for the unseen footage and screen tests featuring Debbie. I've had feedback via this site and the Blondie fans absolutely love it. Are you pleased that this extra material has finally seen the light of day?

MR - Her screen test is a thing of beauty. Tartan Video also facilitated certain changes I wanted to make, in particular deleting superfluous sound effects that had been added when the film was re-cut.

RHTS - With the re-release in the UK of Union City as a special edition DVD on Tartan Video and the simultaneous release of your book Displaced Person: Poetry, Pornography & Politics, has it been a good year so far?

MR - Yes, because there was a minimum of turmoil with these projects. Both Tartan Video and Ziggurat Books were great to work with.

Marcus Reichert

RHTS - You live in France now, how long have you been living there?

MR - We still live between France and England, but Iíve been working on the new studio for about two years. 

RHTS - I do like to go to art galleries and exhibitions every now and then, mainly in London. The last thing I went to was the Hauser & Wirth 'Warhol's World' Photography & Television exhibition in London. Will you be showing any of your work at some point again in London as I'd love to see it?

MR - There isnít anything definite at the moment, although I like to think weíre in the early stages of negotiating an exhibition of new paintings. Michael Hoppen has a few examples of my photographic work at his gallery on Jubilee Place in Chelsea. 

RHTS - What plans do you have for the future?

MR - Always a difficult question. Iím now working with Demetris Kyriacou as my primary film producer and heíll be at Cannes this year with two of our projects. As you may know, the Blair government has made it nearly impossible for independent British filmmakers to put their financing together. Iíve always got a few paintings on the go, and Iíd like very much to do a new book of photographs on the transformation of the house in France, a book that would reveal the abstract nature of such an overwhelming proposition!

For more info on Marcus Reichert, visit his website:

Displaced Person: Poetry, Pornography & Politics by Marcus Reichert was published by Ziggurat Books, London on 20th February 2006 to coincide with the Tartan Films release of his classic film Union City in a special DVD edition. The book features selected writing from 1970 to 2005, including Reichert's controversial political articles for the internet, confessional poetry, and excerpts from his three extraordinary novels. A worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the state of art today, and tomorrow.

is available from
and is distributed by Central Books,
99 Wallis Road,
London E9 5LN
Telephone: 0845.458.9911 
Fax: 0845.458.9912

Buy the book
Displaced Person at amazon

Book Cover
Displaced Person

is available from
Paperback: 140 pages 
Publisher: Ziggurat Books; 1st Edition -- Illustrated edition
Language English 
ISBN-10: 0954665651 
ISBN-13: 978-0954665654 
Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 0.8 cm

Buy the book
ART & EGO at amazon

Book Cover front and back

Buy the DVD
2006 re-released version of Union City on DVD at amazon
This version includes:
Film Notes by Marcus Reichert
Deborah Harry Screen Test
Rare Deleted Footage
Original Theatrical Trailer
Scene Selection
Dolby Digital Dual Mono

2006 DVD Cover
Union City

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