Smithereens is a 1982 film directed by Susan Seidelman and starring Susan Berman, Brad Rinn, and punk rock icon Richard Hell. The film follows a narcissistic young woman from New Jersey who comes to New York City to join the punk subculture, only to find that it’s gravitated towards Los Angeles; in order to pay her way across country, she engages in a number of parasitic relationships, shifting her allegiances to new “friends” in an ongoing effort to ultimately endear herself to someone who will finance her desired lifestyle. Smithereens marked the debut of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) and features a score by The Feelies. It was the first American independent film invited to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Smithereens is a precursor to Seidelman’s next film Desperately Seeking Susan and both films share similar themes of female identity and self-reinvention. Lead actress Susan Berman had no prior experience acting in a film. She was picked out of a theater crowd of an off-Broadway play by director Susan Seidelman to be in this film. In the words of Berman, “The only ones in the crowd were friends of the actors, or someone who knew someone who was involved. After the performance, these two people walked up to me and offered me a role in a feature length movie.” For preparation, director Susan Seidelman told her actress Susan Berman to see the Federico Fellini film Nights of Cabiria before beginning to research her role. Seidelman used friends from her days as a student at NYU as a crew.

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