Over the weekend, I watched the Bennett Miller's 1998 documentary, "The Cruise," starring Timothy 'Speed' Levitch, a tour guide for Manhattan's Gray Line double-decker busses. The film won the best documentary award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Miller's most recent film is the Oscar-winning "Capote."
The film, arguably, is an 85-minute monologue. Levitch's rants (or illumnations) on New York City, its skyscrapers, its neighborhoods, its people, are deliciously entertaining. About the Empire State Building, Levitch says: "If architecture is the history of all phallic emotion, the Empire State Building is utter catharsis, and we are sitting in its silhouette." Levitch's discussion of Greenwich Village, including the locations and fates of some of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century, nearly brought me to tears. He's also hysterically funny: "Many of the women in Filene's Basement are masochists."
He contextualizes everything New York has to offer, not only giving places and events a context in New York, U.S. and world history, but seemingly in the psychic history of humanity, as well. Of Central Park, he explains: "No sweating allowed in the original Central Park. No persperation of any kind. Anyone you see congregating for the baseball game on the left, bicycling, rollerblading, jogging, they are not historically accurate. Anyone you see lounging in the sun, having a picnic, or kissing--they are historically accurate."
Levitch wrote in his book Speedology, "New York City: A great teacher bestowing life lessons on a mostly slow-learning population."
For other samplings, you can check out some clips on YouTube, here.