To claim that New York is a city (Pretend It’s a City) is a provocation already evident in the Portuguese title, but slightly more sarcastic and ambiguous in the original, leaving the pronoun in place of the name. It seems innocuous to pay attention to this detail, however, the performance of Fran Lebowitz, directed by Martin Scorsese, is an effort to put a speech in the foreground. On the other hand, the spectator plays his role, that is to say that of negotiating with what is said and shown. In other words, watching – with or with suspicion – the opinion of a New York writer alongside her friend, a renowned director, on general issues is an exercise in otherness.
In seven short episodes, the mini-series is a staging of a bar conversation between friends with a documentary tone on their memories and their vision of the world. From an entertainment point of view, Pretend New York is a City presents a glimpse of this tumultuous environment by millions of people from the point of view of Fran Lebowitz, presented as a separate woman, i.e. one more person. interesting than the others. . At least, that’s the idea Scorsese wanted in almost four hours. Lebowitz always presents his ideas with humor, irony and sarcasm, which could be summed up by the word: spirit.
From the first episode, the New Yorker’s pleasure and discomfort in living near Time Square is expressed. According to her, a space for tourists, who do not care about the daily chores of those who pay monument taxes, from where they take photos. An obvious opinion, which no one discusses, on the contrary, is funny. It is these “ready-made ideas”, almost banal and somewhat conventional, which are put on the table. They amuse Scorsese, just like our friends amuse us about their weekend adventures.
An example of her discursive ability is the artist’s show in Manhattan, in which the audience asks her questions so that she can present a “resolution” based on her worldview. His rhetoric is always sharp and ironic. Speaking to Spike Lee (Blood Detachment), one of the highlights of the work, Fran Lebowitz talks about his total disgust for the sport, but in a polite manner. While Spike Lee ennobles the figure of Malcolm X, as a boxer and his relevance through sport, she sees him only as a public and political figure.
Despite the intellectual air of Pretend that NY is a city, the conversation is friendly and familiar. The issues raised are media issues, for example, she talks about her disagreement with the term “guilty pleasure”, a critique of the critique of cultural “value”. For her, this idea does not exist, pleasure is pleasure and period. These are clever reflections on ordinary everyday life, media, society, and addictions, but their stories are peculiar, like when Leonardo DiCaprio lent him an electronic cigarette.
The interlocutors Alec Baldwin, Olivia Wilde, Toni Morrison, in addition to the aforementioned Spike Lee enrich the scene and provoke a more relaxed circulation of ideas. However, the concept for the series is a reconstruction of Scorsese Public Speaking’s 2010 documentary for HBO. Here and here on Netflix the intention is the same, casual conversation repeated at a bar table, public speeches by the character, archival footage and his wanderings around the city recounting 40 years of new life experience. -Yorkese.
To make it more perceptive, the production uses the detailed 867.2 m² model, called Panorama of New York City, with its bridges, bays, buildings and numerous skyscrapers, located at the Queens Museum of Art. Thus, there is a visual dimension of the city as a narrative character. In this way, when we see the writer walking among the miniature, we also visualize her browsing through her memories, as if she were watching from above, in a sovereign way, what is happening in the streets of low.
With a title alluding to the lack of collective consciousness, Pretend that NY is a City is a Scorsese protest for the world to see his friend as they see her. A smart, cranky, mocking person who everyone would love to have coffee with. In the last episode, Lebowitz talks about his passion for books; on youth, she categorizes: “we only understand our contemporaries”. Understanding a discordant view is the effective proposition of the mini-series, but above all having fun with the parallels and perpendiculars of these observations.
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