Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Public Speaking

Already aired on HBO, this snappy doc featuring the ultra-voluble, amusing Fran Lebowitz makes big-screen sense in those rarified corners where smart, sophisticated hipsters hang out.

Feb 23, 2011

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1214948-Public_Speaking_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Famously blocked writer/Luddite/pundit/wit Fran Lebowitz is fast, funny, frank and supremely confident of her opinions. She goes to all the right parties, knows all the right people, and just plain knows everything, she boldly insists. Speaking out with admirable insight is her thing and she does it well, effusively, unapologetically, much to the advantage of Public Speaking, which boasts Martin Scorsese as director.

In this brief documentary, mistress of brevity Lebowitz, ever loyal to her familiar sartorial uniform of white shirt/man-tailored jacket/slacks, holds forth with blunt commentary about the human condition and how things work. Culture, she believes, is “an aristocracy of talent” and wit surpasses humor because it is judgment, short, and “has an assumption to it.”

Having children apparently undercuts the effectiveness of women professionally: “Once a woman has a baby,” opines Lebowitz, “she is so interested in it. Do you want her for your lawyer?” Also not likely to win her conventional fans, she is a believer in revenge, not forgiveness, because the latter is “such a Christian thing.” She decries the term “car bomb” as a redundancy because cars with gasoline are simply bombs, ready to explode.

On serious notes, she decries “the death of unbiased news” and laments the “awful” loss of so many to AIDS. These long-gone gays, she says, comprised “an audience with a high level of connoisseurship of the arts. Now everything has to be broader.” She can also be self-deprecating, calling herself “the most slothful person in America.”

Awash in many other worthy observations, Public Speaking also references such Lebowitz heroes/inspirations as James Baldwin, Cole Porter, Jack Paar, Oscar Levant, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, James Thurber and Serge Gainsbourg, witty nonconformists, gay and otherwise.

Cinematographer Ellen Kuras filmed Lebowitz at one of her many eponymous public-speaking engagements (with her friend, author Toni Morrison, on hand) and, in a new genre of sit-down comedy, captures her seated at her table at the trendy West Village restaurant Waverly Inn. (Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter both executive-produced the film and owns the restaurant.)

Expelled from high school, rescued by Andy Warhol as a film reviewer for his Interview magazine, the largely self-educated former cab driver is a profoundly self-assured and wise motor-mouth. She is not a conversationalist by nature nor is she here (beyond a little verbal bounce with Morrison). Any back-and-forth with her public comes by way of their questions and her answers. Her public speaking is purely one way—her way. She knows; you don’t.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine Lebowitz asking a question (except for “What was your question?”) or engaging in any kind of colloquy. But she’s ready for anyone anywhere to listen to her expound on any topic. And that’s what she does to perfection in her two books of essays and in this film.
 
Whether seen on the big or small screen, Public Speaking is that rare film that delivers truly intelligent, original entertainment, with all credit to Lebowitz.


Film Review: Public Speaking

Already aired on HBO, this snappy doc featuring the ultra-voluble, amusing Fran Lebowitz makes big-screen sense in those rarified corners where smart, sophisticated hipsters hang out.

Feb 23, 2011

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1214948-Public_Speaking_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Famously blocked writer/Luddite/pundit/wit Fran Lebowitz is fast, funny, frank and supremely confident of her opinions. She goes to all the right parties, knows all the right people, and just plain knows everything, she boldly insists. Speaking out with admirable insight is her thing and she does it well, effusively, unapologetically, much to the advantage of Public Speaking, which boasts Martin Scorsese as director.

In this brief documentary, mistress of brevity Lebowitz, ever loyal to her familiar sartorial uniform of white shirt/man-tailored jacket/slacks, holds forth with blunt commentary about the human condition and how things work. Culture, she believes, is “an aristocracy of talent” and wit surpasses humor because it is judgment, short, and “has an assumption to it.”

Having children apparently undercuts the effectiveness of women professionally: “Once a woman has a baby,” opines Lebowitz, “she is so interested in it. Do you want her for your lawyer?” Also not likely to win her conventional fans, she is a believer in revenge, not forgiveness, because the latter is “such a Christian thing.” She decries the term “car bomb” as a redundancy because cars with gasoline are simply bombs, ready to explode.

On serious notes, she decries “the death of unbiased news” and laments the “awful” loss of so many to AIDS. These long-gone gays, she says, comprised “an audience with a high level of connoisseurship of the arts. Now everything has to be broader.” She can also be self-deprecating, calling herself “the most slothful person in America.”

Awash in many other worthy observations, Public Speaking also references such Lebowitz heroes/inspirations as James Baldwin, Cole Porter, Jack Paar, Oscar Levant, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, James Thurber and Serge Gainsbourg, witty nonconformists, gay and otherwise.

Cinematographer Ellen Kuras filmed Lebowitz at one of her many eponymous public-speaking engagements (with her friend, author Toni Morrison, on hand) and, in a new genre of sit-down comedy, captures her seated at her table at the trendy West Village restaurant Waverly Inn. (Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter both executive-produced the film and owns the restaurant.)

Expelled from high school, rescued by Andy Warhol as a film reviewer for his Interview magazine, the largely self-educated former cab driver is a profoundly self-assured and wise motor-mouth. She is not a conversationalist by nature nor is she here (beyond a little verbal bounce with Morrison). Any back-and-forth with her public comes by way of their questions and her answers. Her public speaking is purely one way—her way. She knows; you don’t.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine Lebowitz asking a question (except for “What was your question?”) or engaging in any kind of colloquy. But she’s ready for anyone anywhere to listen to her expound on any topic. And that’s what she does to perfection in her two books of essays and in this film.
 
Whether seen on the big or small screen, Public Speaking is that rare film that delivers truly intelligent, original entertainment, with all credit to Lebowitz.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here