"New York City means different things to different people," begins Cullen Gallagher at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, "and its cinematic representations over the years are as diverse as the city itself. With the rise of independent movies and the decentralization of the American film industry after the dissolution of the once dominant studio system, the 1970s witnessed a prolific return of filmmaking to the Big Apple. That decade saw the release of several seminal NYC movies, ranging from indie underdogs to studio epics: the operatic majesty of The Godfather, the blaxploitation classic Shaft, the junkie drama Panic in Needle Park, the neurotic rom-com Annie Hall, the comic book fantasy Superman, and the psycho-urban-Western Taxi Driver. This hardly scratches the surface of that particular cinematic context. But amidst the Saturday Night Fevers and the Death Wishes, there were also smaller, quieter tributes to the city, like Claudia Weill's Girl Friends, a fond portrait of the personal and professional frustrations encountered by two roommates helping each other get by in the big city."
Not Coming will be presenting Girl Friends tomorrow evening at the 92nd St Y Tribeca.
A newly restored 35mm print of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver will be screening at New York's Film Forum through March 31. "Even if you know this one, go again," advises Joshua Rothkopf. "A new movie awaits you." Also in this week's Time Out New York: Rothkopf on Richard Schickel's Conversations with Scorsese: "Every movie, from Raging Bull and Goodfellas to minor whiffs like Scorsese's 2008 Rolling Stones' concert doc Shine a Light, gets its own Q&A chapter (as do general subjects like music and editing). If the insights have been repeated elsewhere, they still make up a worthy compendium." And the TONY team lists their "favorite director cameos."
With Taxi Driver, "Scorsese and scribe Paul Schrader create an empathetic enigma irreducible to sociological case study," argues Michael Joshua Rowin in the L. "Perhaps because peak-era Robert De Niro is Bickle: no actor has ever been simultaneously so ferocious and pathetic."
"Hitchcockian unease permeates the film, but so too does a Godardian use of space and a Bressonian focus on obsession heighten the mounting sense of dread," writes Rob Humanick in Slant.
"It came, it saw, it zapped the body politic right between the eyes," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "It synthesized noir, neorealist, and New Wave stylistics; it assimilated Hollywood’s recent vigilante cycle, drafting then-déclassé blaxploitation in the service of a presumed tell-it-like-it-is naturalism that, predicated on a frank, unrelenting representation of racism, violence, and misogyny, was even more racist, violent, and misogynist than it allowed. The 12th top-grossing movie of 1976, Taxi Driver was not just a hit but, like Psycho or Bonnie and Clyde, an event in American popular culture — perhaps even an intervention." Probably goes without saying, but this one is the must-read.
"Long before 'street-fashion photographer' was even a job description — before the Sartorialist first spotted a pocket square folded just so, before Tommy Ton even knew what a platform shoe was — there was Bill Cunningham's regular New York Times photo-column, 'On the Street,' a weekly feature capturing the range of looks and combinations found on the sidewalks of New York." Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek: "But until recently, few outside the fashion world had any idea who Bill Cunningham was, what he looked like, or what his philosophy of fashion (or of photography, for that matter) might be. Richard Press's glorious documentary Bill Cunningham New York pulls the curtain back — at least as far as it will ever go. Press has been working on the picture for 10 years; he spent 8 of those getting the eighty-something photographer, who covers the city by Schwinn bicycle, to agree to the project. Cunningham is an impish subject, half compliant and half reticent. But what Press comes up with in the end isn't just a portrait of individual eccentricity. Its larger subject is the way one man, just by being alive to what's around him, has created a vast, detailed anthropological record of how New Yorkers present, and feel, about themselves."
For Nathan Heller, writing in Slate, "Press works up a portrait that's as raw, gentle, funny, and — in the end — irresistible as the pictures themselves."
More from Carina Chocano (NYT), David Fear (Time Out New York, 3/5), Mark Holcomb (Voice), Carlos J Segura (Cinespect), Scott Tobias (AV Club, B+) and Armond White (New York Press). Esther Zuckerman talks with Press for Interview and Press has a slide show for New York. At Film Forum through March 29.