The Wall Street Wolf: Falling in Love with New York through the Eyes of Fran Leibowitz and Martin Scorsese
She does not have a telephone, computer or typewriter, but she has become one of Dora's most prominent writers.
In "Say It's a City," the new series about Fran Leibowitz on Netflix, director Martin Scorsese presents us with a rare love story between a man and a place.
The result is frustrating, but bursts with laughter
Living Room Fellow
Friday, 22 January 2021, 08:36
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Trailer "Fran Leibowitz: Let's Say It's a City" (Netflix)
All of Harold Leibowitz's friends were sent to training at the Great Fort Dix camp, right in their backyard in New Jersey.
This was the period of World War II, and the young people received a conscription order.
Harold did not wait for the order.
The day after graduating from high school he volunteered to enlist.
To his surprise, he was not summoned to the rookie camp near his home, but was sent to a deep base in the southern U.S. As a Jew, the trip to the south frightened him no less than the war in Europe. One of his new friends at the tent approached him and began to feel his head. Does, and the young soldier answered him naively: "I want to feel your horns." He did not joke, this was the level of anti-Semitism in the southern United States.
In fact, his training period in Tennessee not only prepared him for military service, but also for an encounter with Nazi anti-Semitism.
He was trained as a tank gunner, and spent most of the war exposed in a turret in front of German bullets and missiles.
He survived, many of his comrades-in-arms did not.
He decided not to tell anyone about it.
Harold did not talk about his days as a soldier.
Like many men of his generation, he chose to repress the trauma and move on with his life.
He returned to New Jersey, attended college, married Ruth, and they had two daughters.
Fran, the youngest daughter, was born in 1950. This is the dictionary definition of "boomer", but in those days the word had a good connotation.
Fran heard about the war, she knew her father was fighting it, and she tried to get stories out of him.
He refused to cooperate.
He was a man of few words.
Only in the last year of his life, when he was 83, did he start sharing stories from the war with Fran.
In fact, he could not talk about anything else.
Years upon years of repression came out at once.
All the scars and pain he stored in his body came out of him.
Only then did Fran realize how much that war had affected her life as well, when the main revolt of her life was to be the one who was not afraid to talk about anything.
Words became not only her livelihood, but the "thinness datra", the reason for her existence.
Like all the girls of the boom generation, the Leibowitz sisters were educated to be good women, meaning "good wives."
Fran was a bookworm from a young age.
"Books are better than life itself," she says to this day.
She claims she owns about ten thousand books, which is the only property she has.
Her mother told her that if she loved reading so much, then she should marry a "university professor."
She did not even think of encouraging her to become an academic herself.
Those were other days.
Fifties in New Jersey.
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Did not become a good wife (Photo: GettyImages, Yvonne Hamsley)
Fran continued to read enthusiastically, and at the age of 12 she read a book about love between two women.
It was the first time she realized that the feelings she felt towards her daughters were not just unique to her.
The books made her realize that she was not alone in the world.
Her youthful rebellion was mostly manifested in disdain for schooling, and she was thrown out of her school.
Her parents still tried to force her to study, enrolling her in a Christian school for girls only, but she was also expelled from there.
At the age of 17 her parents sent her to live with her aunt, after half a year she decided to start her life in New York.
The love story between Fran and New York has been going on for more than 50 years, and now it is also becoming the main story in one of the most talked about and surprising docu-series that have surfaced on Netflix in recent years: "Let's Say It's a City."
In the rich content world we live in, with a new streaming network rising or falling every day or so, it's hard to get excited about a seven-part documentary series accompanied by a grumpy 70-year-old woman who keeps complaining about banal things like selling bags in bookstores In finding an apartment.
But Fran Leibowitz is no longer a woman, she is an institution of words, opinions and reason.
"Say It's a City" is not only one of the more fun docu-projects Scorsese has done (and he did), but it's the kind of thing that justifies the existence of Netflix in our lives.
It is hard to believe that this series would have reached a wide Israeli audience if the streaming giant had not existed in Israel.
Martin Scorsese, 78 himself, had already made a movie about Leibowitz on HBO a decade ago, and now he's taking advantage of his name and the fact that no one on Netflix is really asking him what he's doing with the money they're pouring on him, and he just went out to photograph himself talking to his old girlfriend .
In this case, it's more than enough.
The role of the great director in the film is to ask Leibowitz guiding questions, then stretch in a chair and enjoy her ingenious answers.
It is difficult to recall a cinematic or television work in which we actually see visually how much the creator enjoys while doing it.
Scorsese bursts out laughing at every scene.
His laughter rolls.
Leibowitz really makes him laugh, because she's really funny.
It's hard not to roll with laughter along with Scorsese.
When was the last time you sat on the living room couch and watched someone answer simple questions like "How would you define your lifestyle?"
Then you were just so torn from the answer that you had to run the video back a few moments because you realized that because you laughed so much, you probably missed the sensitivity and truth that was in the answer?
Hell, even the way she walks the cold streets of Manhattan is hilarious, when she's not even trying to hide her authentic hatred of the other people on the street, including a pantheon segment of triple finger pulling at a cheeky cyclist.
Fran Leibowitz and Martin Scorsese at the New York City Library (Photo: PR, Netflix)
The docu uses several archival footage, including interviews with Leibowitz in the past alongside random excerpts from old films, but these are mostly ongoing monologues by Leibowitz as part of a conversation with Scorsese.
The conversations are divided between the chapters in a fairly flexible way into seven different themes - money, health and sports, books, etc. - with Scorsese clearly not trying to make a biographical or political story out of it.
Leibowitz's sexual orientation, the fact that she has spent her entire life since the age of 18 alone or her resolute political views are not mentioned in the series but casually.
The book is spiced with stories from Leibowitz's early years in the city as a taxi driver and cleaner, but the goal is more to show how New York was run as a city in the 1970s, and less to tell the speaker's unique story.
Leibowitz's strong views on big issues like racism, police violence and feminism hardly come up in the series - while her diagnoses about small things (why Michael Jordan will never be as big as Shakespeare) get widespread.
and better this way.
This is not a story about a 70-year-old artist who tells of her 50 years of activity, but about the connection between the rare philosophy of one artist and the amazing city in the world, and the changes that have taken place in it, that only someone with X-ray ability can notice.
James Joyce used to say that if Dublin was destroyed in a war or a natural disaster, it would be possible to reconstruct it accurately through his descriptions in Ulysses.
Similarly, it would be possible to use Leibowitz's exact words and recreate Manhattan.
Like Scorsese himself in "Taxi Driver" and "Night Madness," Leibowitz does not try to beautify the city in theory.
The relationship between it and the city is complex.
She loves the city, but is not in love with it.
That's a big difference.
New York through Leibowitz's eyes is a living creature, not a city.
Anyone who lives in the city understands how accurate it is, even those who have visited there for a short time.
Leibowitz's love for her city is addictive, and also frustrating.
Maybe this is the weird time we live in, but it's hard to remember a piece that made me want to leave everything, get on a plane, take the express bus from JFK to the Grand Central Station, and just go out and stare at the world famous skyline.
It's a bit sadistic to put out a series like this at a time when it's impossible to fly anywhere.
Lucky she's bursting out laughing.
Do not let the grumpy appearance confuse you, this is one of the funniest women in the world.
Fran Leibowitz in New York, February 2020 (Photo: GettyImages, John Lampersky)
It is important to clarify that there is no love story here that blinds the artist's eyes and presents the viewer with a kind of clean version of the city.
This is not "friends" selling us a New York version where there are no blacks or gays and an unemployed waitress can rent a huge apartment together with a friend.
Nor is it "never, rarely, sometimes, always" that paints New York as a kind of ongoing, noisy and merging nightmare.
Leibowitz presents a kind of realistic version of "Seinfeld", with an aesthetic combination of the classic Woody Allen films at a pace that ranges from the swing of Sinatra to Charles Mingus.
No wonder the prominent thought in watching Fran Leibowitz is that this is the female version of Larry David.
In many ways, they were separated at birth.
Like Larry David, Leibowitz dislikes change, foreigners, tourists and technological innovations.
For Leibowitz, this is almost an obsession.
She has exactly three technological means: a car (which she bought in the 1970s and has not replaced since), a TV (not smart) and a landline phone.
It sounds inconceivable that someone is operating in the 21st century without a cell phone, but equally it was strange in the 70s that someone who makes a living from writing does not use a typewriter.
She has always written with a page and a pen, nowadays she pays people to transcribe her manuscript into a digital version.
Her two books published in the 1970s were a collection of humorous articles and became bestsellers, but since then she has been published mainly thanks to her writing barrier.
Her writing is slow, very.
She does not believe in editing or being written.
When she finally takes a page and writes a sentence, it must be accurate, without any changes.
This is probably why she has never published the book she has been working on for over 40 years.
Before filming began, Scorsese and Leibowitz agreed on two terms: not filming in the summer and not going out of Manhattan.
Scorsese did not meet the second rule.
The director suggested that they film some of the conversations between them in the panoramic New York model that is regularly displayed at the Museum in Queens.
Leibowitz was furious.
"For me, traveling to Queens is like traveling to Afghanistan," she said, but eventually succumbed to Scorsese's pleas.
Leibowitz visited the panoramic model as a 14-year-old girl when he was part of the local pavilion at the New York World's Fair.
The exhibit, like the museum today, is part of the large park built on the banks of the Flushing River in 1939.
The location gave him his familiar nickname "Flushing Meadows", but his official name was and remains "Corona Park".
Sadly, this is the only mention of the word "corona" in the context of the series, as it was filmed even before the outbreak of the plague.
In interviews she conducted ahead of the film’s release she referred to a plague that hit particularly hard in New York.
She humorously explained that as a man who likes to sit at home and read books anyway, the plague did not affect her too much - but also predicted the fall of Trump in the wake of the plague.
"In the eighties there were men in the closet trying to hide the fact that they were gay, but it was impossible to hide the fact that they were dying of AIDS," she made a comparison that few can afford to do, "just as stupid as Trump is enthusiastic about his racism "They get it and from the fact that they do not have money for health insurance - but they can not ignore the fact that their father died of corona."
As a woman who takes words seriously, there is one thing she has refused to do, and that is to treat the plague as a "war."
The girl from New Jersey who grew up with a father who repressed the pain of war throughout his life has not forgotten what that word means, and to this day she refuses to use the word "war" metaphorically.
One can only hope that Scorsese is already working on the third part of the trilogy with Leibowitz.
The world needs more such works, probably now, when the only way to see New York is through television.
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