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“ Pretend It’s a City ” review: wonderful tribute to New York and the art of conversation

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DOCU SERIES “Pretend It’s a City”

OR Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IS IT ABOUT “Pretend It’s a City” is a seven-part Netflix documentary series about Fran Lebowitz, the New York-based writer, comedian and storyteller who is best known today for his live performances.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Lebowitz’s longtime friend who also made the 2010 documentary “Public Speaking” about her, it consists of a long conversation in which she shares her thoughts on everything from books to sports to health and well-being and air travel, as well as childhood and social norms.

Above all, it’s a tribute to New York City seen through the eyes of one of its most astute observers. The series is streaming now.

MY SAY There couldn’t be a better time for a documentary that celebrates the art of intimate public conversation and the joys of walking around the city, looking up from your phone and truly enjoying the surroundings.

We are in the midst of the 11th month of the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly stuck inside and rooted in Zoom.

Most of us have spent limited time, if at all, in person, even with some of our loved ones, let alone perched around a table in a bar, surrounded by the din of silent conversation, the clinking of glasses and the faint sounds of a pool game in the background.

So many joys that make New York what it is are still boring. The place Lebowitz characterizes as both marvelous and difficult, filled with rich discoveries that persist even as forces of gentrification and redevelopment constantly transform the landscape, seems both familiar and profoundly alien now.

Spending about 3.5 hours with “Pretend It’s a City,” which was filmed before the pandemic, is tantamount to a therapeutic exercise for viewers who love New York City and all that it is.

The shots of Lebowitz’s Scorsese walking the streets of the Flatiron District or Times Square, buzz with the hustle and bustle that has since largely ceased, capture the joys of this circus of activity as it always has been and will someday be. new.

Much of the conversation that unfolds throughout the seven episodes takes place at the Players Club in Gramercy Park, a New York institution that has endured since the 19th century, and Panorama of the City of New York, a creation by Robert Moses. for the 1964 World’s. Fair now living at the Queens Museum.

Scorsese and Lebowitz capture the wonder of this place, framing its skyscrapers, majestic bridges and disparate neighborhoods as the setting for a great human experience.

On Lebowitz’s walks around the city, she also makes a point of looking at the sidewalk, where treasures such as quotes from famous authors like Henry David Thoreau in the New York Public Library can be found, just off Fifth Avenue. .

They don’t hide the difficulties and challenges of city life. Lebowitz pointedly observes that everyday life can be more difficult in the Big Apple, and there is a long conversation that, even in the old days, it was still more expensive than elsewhere.

But there is nothing more classic in New York City than friends engaged in caustic, funny and uncompromising conversation surrounded by ghosts of the past and the promise of the future. There is something about this place that opens your eyes to the rich parade of life. We’ve been missing it lately. “Pretend It’s a City”, if only for a moment, brings her back.

LOWER LINE “Pretend It’s a City” is a wonderful tribute to New York and the art of conversation. Don’t miss it.

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