F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 28, 2014)

28 11 2014

The CruiseBefore he was fictionalizing the pursuits of uncommonly dedicated American men, Bennett Miller was chronicling a real one.  His 1998 directorial debut “The Cruise” was actually a documentary, not a narrative film.  But rest assured, the path Miller charts is still every bit as fascinating as his more recent work.

The non-fiction tale is an interesting experiment in subjectivity, as Miller lets the narration flow purely from his only character, Timothy “Speed” Levitch.  “The Cruise” is essentially a 75-minute long spiel of Levitch talking, both in his vocation as a guide on a New York City tour bus and in his personal life.  This uninterrupted biography is my “F.I.L.M. of the Week” because of the curiosity such a tightly focused spotlight invites.

Levitch’s knowledge of New York’s history is impeccable, perhaps a bit pedantic at times.  (Fun fact I learned from watching: George Washington took the oath of office to become our first President on Wall Street.  So no wonder our government is so beholden to business interests!)  He is distinct, however, in his remarkable delivery of the wealth of information he possesses.  Levitch does not simply regurgitate facts; he is a poet laureate of the mean streets and a true mythologizer of his city.

But Miller steps down from the double-decker bus and shows who Levitch is behind the bombast.  As it turns out, he has a whole host of resentments that he does not shy away from calling out.  Levitch calls out the family members who did not believe in him and the people who refused to read his screenplay, just to name a few.

“The Cruise” does not force reconciliation of these two sides of Levitch.  Is it possible that a man is both the good-natured jokester who protests workplace uniforms because it will ruin his chance to pick up chicks as well as a bitter misanthrope?  Once again, Miller does not provide the solution to his puzzling protagonist, just all the pieces for personal interpretation.

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