A portrait of one of the few remaining men only 'flophouses' on New York City's infamous skid row, the Bowery.

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Nathan Smith ...
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The Bowery: for centuries it has been one of New York City's major arteries, in every sense of the word: a gritty and vital counterpoint to the theaters of Broadway and the mansions of Fifth Avenue. Traditionally a rowdy avenue of nickel museums and burlesque shows, by the beginning of the 20th century it had become America's most famous 'skid row', lined with flop houses, missions, and bars. Only a few decades ago, these flophouses served as a nightly refuge for 25, 000 men on the fringes of society: the poor, the wretched, the overwhelmed; some scoundrels, but more of them decent men whose luck had simply failed them. Today only a handful of the old flophouses remain, the rest having been swept away in an implacably rising tide of affluence. These flophouses are the last vestiges of a different time and a different city, and the Sunshine is one of them. At the Sunshine Hotel, nothing has changed in seventy or eighty years. The men still sleep in a warren of 4' x 6' cubicles called ... Written by Michael Dominic/Rob Rapley

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Documentary

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10 February 2001 (USA)  »

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Nathan: I don't find myself in the common mold of interests, you know, that one would see. And, as a consequence, I see things a little differently than the other person. I don't quite see things the same way. I have a different perspective of things that I see, and that makes things difficult. I think in very simplistic terms. You wake up in the morning, you eat breakfast and you breathe in and out for the rest of the day...and at night you eat dinner, you go to bed, and perhaps you wake up the next ...
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Powerful, evocative
13 November 2002 | by (Chicago, Illinois) – See all my reviews

What an incredible film, especially for a documentary. This reflection on a seemingly hopeless flophouse and the worn-out, tired men who live in it is stunning in the stark reality it gives the viewer, and the poor residents it reveals are truly fascinating people. They are people who anyone can relate to, who had a dream that didn't quite come to fruition, who had a terrible experience with prejudice or lost love, people who seem like they've had the deck stacked against them from the start. This movie is essential for a viewer who wants to see a movie about the lost dreams of an American city and American lives. It's tracing of the infamous Bowery neighborhood from it's glory days to it's present depressed melancholy environment show a changing America, but an America that has always had nothing but contempt for the losers in life. This film shows how those "losers" deserve sympathy from those less blessed in life--everyone knows someone like them, someone who just didn't get any breaks. There are some truly haunting shots, from a post-September 11th perspective, that show the World Trade Center buildings towering over the bleak city street on which the flophouse resides, but the real lesson in this movie is how our system ruins the lives of good people, like the elderly black Army veteran recounting his terrifying experience in the Jim Crow South during the 1950s, or the charming man who recounts his hopelessness and lack of confidence with women in a frank, honest manner that would have brought a less hardened man to tears. This film is sad and beautiful and unsparing in its truth, and it is an extraordinary movie.


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