Author Topic: New York: A Documentary Film (1999)  (Read 1164 times)

Offline Antares

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New York: A Documentary Film (1999)
« on: December 12, 2009, 01:41:14 AM »
New York: A Documentary Film (1999)







       If you are talking about documentary films and you mention the name Burns, you will generally elicit a response referencing the director who has crafted many meticulous and masterful works heralding our historical heritage, Ken Burns. Lost in the shadow of his older brother’s fame, is another member of the family who also plies his trade in the domain of the documentary film, Ric Burns. Though not as famous as his senior sibling, Ric has also become known for creating entertaining, yet educational films which chronicle important times and events in our nation’s history. Ken’s magnum opus The Civil War, changed forever how the world looked upon the once stoic and stodgy special interest film. Ric had participated in some of the writing for this film and has produced solid segments of The American Experience, such as The Donner Party and Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film for PBS. Now, to equal his brother’s lofty goal of creating an epic that would secure his spot on the summit, he chose to tell the complete history of the most grandiose, garish and gargantuan cities the world as ever seen; New York City.

       Told originally in seven segments, each around two hours in length, Burns weaves an interesting tapestry of historical and culture events using the same tried and true methods most famously incorporated in his brother’s works. You have the panning of art pieces and still photographs, used as a backdrop for the anecdotal orations of historians who partake in the project, creating a visual narrative that simulates in the viewers mind a sense of witnessing first hand, the subjects detailed onscreen. One thing the Burns’ brothers do have in common, besides the style in which they lay out their films, is an almost over-abundance in cloying sentimentality, that at times can become tedious. There were times during this documentary, when I felt that if I heard one more platitude about the idyllic nature of native New Yorkers, or the self-serving importance of the cities cultural melting pot, I was going to hurl something at the screen. That being said, I was very much intrigued with the vast amount of historical information in the film that I had not learned in school. DeWitt Clinton, Boss Tweed and Al Smith, names on pictures in my old history books, come to life with a vitality that helps to keep the viewer focused on the importance of New York’s place in American and world history. The flow of the narrative keeps pace with the timeline covered as decades and centuries pass by with an ease that entertains and educates at the same time.

       The film would take on added importance after the events of 9/11. Sensing that the film now seemed exhaustively emotional in its praise of the metropolis, yet ominously incomplete, an eighth episode was added which not only chronicled the incidents of that tragic day, but of the history of the building leading up to its demise. Released almost four years after the original film, it would be a fitting codicil to the legacy of a city at the forefront of economic and now political ideologies. It would help New Yorkers come to an understanding of the importance of the island upon which they live, and bring about a small sense of closure to what was now seen as New York’s most infamous and tragic event.
   

Ratings Criterion:
- The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
- Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
- Historically important film, considered a classic.
- An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
– A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
- Borderline viewable.
– A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
– Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
– A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
- A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 03:02:59 PM by Antares »