Saturday, July 26, 2008

Greenwich Village: 1960

video
Description and reviews from archive.org
In this film we follow a prim young woman in white gloves as she explores Greenwich Village on a Sunday afternoon. She walks off the Fifth Avenue bus at Washington Square and straight into a "hootenanny." This is a corny, but charming look at the Village in the early sixties in the transitional period between the "beat' generation and the rise of the later sixties counter-culture. The best scenes are when we actually hear the folksingers singing bluegrass tunes around the Washington Square fountain and the beat poet reading in a grubby coffeehouse. These scenes have real documentary value. The film's use of actors to try to create a story gives it an amateurish feeling, but that same amateurism is what also gives the film its charm. It was nice to see the old Italian Greenwich Village with the street market and the stickball and bocce players, who are now long gone. The Greenwich Village portrayed here looks like a shabby, tolerant place where ordinary people could afford to live. Alas, that is no more.
This laid-back early-60s film shows us street life in Greenwich Village on a Sunday. We see such things as sidewalk art displays, folksinging in the circle, and beatniks reciting poetry. This definitely brings back a memorable time and place, giving us a glimpse of the birth of the 60s counterculture. One rather silly aspect of the film is a prim woman in a striped dress and little white gloves who appears in almost every scene and reacts to things as if she was on Mars (though with a smile on her face). This film could have perhaps had more content to it, but then it wouldn't have been as laid back as a Greenwich Village Sunday.
I was excited when I read that the great Jean Shepherd was the narrator. He was among the hippest men in America in 1960. However in this film all he does is read the rather square travelogue type script and that's disappointing. However I really enjoyed the scenes shot in Washington Square Park where the folkies hung out singing their silly songs. The beat poet Ted Joans was kind of cool too.
An interesting overview of 1960's New York (more specifically Greenwich Village). This film has the mood down pat, with the banjos, bongos and the hip language of the period. It takes us on a tour of everyday practices then (oh, maybe it hasn't changed) taking us through art exhibitions on the street, men playing bocce (sigh) and other sights. Although pretty much filled with interesting locals, I REALLY with they didn't include the obviously eyesore actors, who stick out like a sore thumb. But other then that, a highly enjoyable film!

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