Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Gut Renovation

Very DIY project covers the scary gentrification of a beloved New York neighborhood, but ends up being more a whine-fest than truly powerful.

March 6, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1372668-Gut_Renovation_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Every longtime resident of New York has a love-hate relationship with the city, but lately, for many of us who definitely do not comprise the so-called one percent, the latter emotion is holding sway. Su Friedrich’s Gut Renovation tackles the main reason for this head-on by focusing on how her 20-year neighborhood of Williamsburg is, in her opinion, being destroyed by soulless gentrification.

She starts by listing from A to Z the various longtime local businesses which have been forced out of the district by the skyrocketing rents of venal landlords and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s unstinting support of luxury housing development, which has resulted in rezoning laws favoring the rich over smaller commercial enterprises and aspiring artists. Bakeries, delicatessens and garages which have been around since the 1960s are all being chased out and, as someone remarks, “Soon this area will be nothing but coffee shops and bars.” (Sadly, this phenomenon is worldwide, as the exact same thing was said in a recent documentary about the fall of Venice.)

Friedrich’s shaky handheld-camera/one-woman-band technique here epitomizes guerrilla filmmaking as she pokes her nose into demolished old buildings, open houses of sterile luxe apartments in complexes with names like Jardin (“In French it means ‘garden,’ the English use it to express ‘Exceptional lifestyle’”) and the faces of the affluent people moving in, replete with fancy dogs, nannies and strollers. At one point, a well-heeled lady complains, “You don’t know anything about me and it’s rude to film me.” Friedrich backs down—“She had a point, I hate being filmed, too”—but in the dramatic interests of her movie, I wish she hadn’t wimpily caved.

Although the film is a valuable five-year record of a venerable neighborhood’s transition, all the futile outrage becomes very one-note, however much you may be in her corner. (Friedrich herself originally had the happy setup of a very affordable loft space in an abandoned factory before being evicted in 2010.) The tone becomes oppressively whiny, not helped by her monotonous, recurring countdown of the shuttered, beloved businesses (“56, 57, 58…” superimposed over a map of the area). Rather than having any true expositional arc or offering any real solutions, her film, although passionate, is more like a presentation an angry person would give at a concerned neighborhood meeting.


Film Review: Gut Renovation

Very DIY project covers the scary gentrification of a beloved New York neighborhood, but ends up being more a whine-fest than truly powerful.

March 6, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1372668-Gut_Renovation_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Every longtime resident of New York has a love-hate relationship with the city, but lately, for many of us who definitely do not comprise the so-called one percent, the latter emotion is holding sway. Su Friedrich’s Gut Renovation tackles the main reason for this head-on by focusing on how her 20-year neighborhood of Williamsburg is, in her opinion, being destroyed by soulless gentrification.

She starts by listing from A to Z the various longtime local businesses which have been forced out of the district by the skyrocketing rents of venal landlords and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s unstinting support of luxury housing development, which has resulted in rezoning laws favoring the rich over smaller commercial enterprises and aspiring artists. Bakeries, delicatessens and garages which have been around since the 1960s are all being chased out and, as someone remarks, “Soon this area will be nothing but coffee shops and bars.” (Sadly, this phenomenon is worldwide, as the exact same thing was said in a recent documentary about the fall of Venice.)

Friedrich’s shaky handheld-camera/one-woman-band technique here epitomizes guerrilla filmmaking as she pokes her nose into demolished old buildings, open houses of sterile luxe apartments in complexes with names like Jardin (“In French it means ‘garden,’ the English use it to express ‘Exceptional lifestyle’”) and the faces of the affluent people moving in, replete with fancy dogs, nannies and strollers. At one point, a well-heeled lady complains, “You don’t know anything about me and it’s rude to film me.” Friedrich backs down—“She had a point, I hate being filmed, too”—but in the dramatic interests of her movie, I wish she hadn’t wimpily caved.

Although the film is a valuable five-year record of a venerable neighborhood’s transition, all the futile outrage becomes very one-note, however much you may be in her corner. (Friedrich herself originally had the happy setup of a very affordable loft space in an abandoned factory before being evicted in 2010.) The tone becomes oppressively whiny, not helped by her monotonous, recurring countdown of the shuttered, beloved businesses (“56, 57, 58…” superimposed over a map of the area). Rather than having any true expositional arc or offering any real solutions, her film, although passionate, is more like a presentation an angry person would give at a concerned neighborhood meeting.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

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 »

Dear White People
Film Review: Dear White People

There won't be a smarter or funnier screenplay this year (or more striking feature directorial debut), and that is just the basis for this surprising, wonderful and quite definitive college film. 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