Jay Schwartz’s Secret Cinema – the ongoing and always surprising Philadelphia film series offering treasures sublime and obscure from its curator’s vast collection of vintage features, shorts, documentaries, industrial pics and found celluloid – travels to New York this Friday. That is, it travels to International House in University City to show a pair of rarely seen docs about New York City.
In George Plimpton’s New York, a 1978 documentary produced by Canadian public television, the late, great writer, editor, particpatory journalist and man about town (often via bike) leads viewers on an excusion around his burg. It was not the city it is now – the ’70s found the Big Apple crime-ridden, derelict, in financial crisis – but Plimpton found it full of surprises, and full of life. He stops at Yankee Stadium, goes to Ellis Island, to ballrooms and boites, and interviews some prominent New Yawkers, including Muhammed Ali trainer Bundini Brown and newspaperman Jimmy Breslin.
In Only One New York (1964), French director Pierre Dominque Gaisseau brings his camera crew across the Atlantic to wax poetic about a city forever in transition, with wrecking balls demolishing the old, and construction crews building the new. “The fishing boats cluster at the lower end of Manhattan as though they really belong there,” intones narrator Norman Rose, “as though times have not changed, as though the glittering skyscrapers behind them did not exist.” The black and white film drops in on weddings, fashion shows, a Buddhist festival, and follows a crew of Mohawks working as high-rise hard-hats, walking the girders stories above Park Avenue, and then repairing to a Brooklyn bar.
The Secret Cinema New York show, Friday, August 24, at 7pm. Internation al House, 3701 Chestnut St. Admission: $9, $7 Students + Seniors, $5.00 International House members. Info: thesecretcinema.com, 215-387-5125