A feature-length documentary starring Fran Lebowitz, a writer known for her unique take on modern life. The film weaves together extemporaneous monologues with archival footage and the ...
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Martin Scorsese interviews his mother and father about their life in New York City and the family history back in Sicily. These are two people who have lived together for a long time and ... See full summary »
A feature-length documentary starring Fran Lebowitz, a writer known for her unique take on modern life. The film weaves together extemporaneous monologues with archival footage and the effect is a portrait of Fran's worldview and experiences. Written by
The main character of Public Speaking, the latest Martin Scorsese documentary/profile, is conversation. Only he is a little too fidgity visually (and why not, he's friggin Scorsese after all) to stay in one spot on a subject like Louis Malle could do with Gregory and Shawn with 'Andre'. Indeed Scorsese, while obviously being the one spoken to along with another person, by humorist/author Fran Lebowitz, she lets her mind and mouth, moving and thinking always as she speaks very fast but eloquently, let's that be the driving force of the film. He'll occasionally cut to a scene or something to demonstrate what she might be talking about, or something surprising like an old commercial from the 1950's or (gasp) footage from his own Taxi Driver to show what the streets of NYC in the 70's were like.
Lebowitz is the figure of the film, and if you can find her interesting and funny then you're good to go already. The crowd I saw the film with at a limited engagement in NYC was perfect to see it with: not too large, but totally in tune with her way of wit. Her attitude should be presumptuous and pompous - she's one of those who says "I'm right about everything!" - but she's right about enough stuff, and funny about it, that it's alright. She goes through a lot of topics, mostly about herself and how she came to be from a woodsy NJ background to one of Andy Warhol's not-quite pop-stars ("It was a joke!" she says of his whole concept of superstardom), how she gained some fame as a writer, and then slacked off for many years, and of course Feminism, politics, etc.
I was surprised how taken I was with her way of thinking and speaking, as I had never heard of her before watching the film. Scorsese moves things along at a fast pace but never where it's too fast, and we get to know this person by the end of a sorta dinner-conversation (though there's no food and no drink outside of water). The editing style, though mostly rather standard for the director (mostly cutting shots of close-ups and mediums of Lebowitz), is most on fire when he cuts to the clips, such as one between two older men on a 1968 TV show where the discourse becomes nasty very quick. What drew me in ultimately though, as much as it was Lebowitz being a charming (almost in spite of herself) figure, was how intelligence just radiates in the film and a quest for knowledge that is pertinent. You want to know about her, from her, whatever it is, and that's fascinating.
It's a conventional expose of an unconventional woman - that is, unconventional from today's standards of stupidity, ignorance, and corporate defeat. She's someone you might want to have a coffee with, if she could tolerate *you* first, or ultimately visa-versa.
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