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

PK
Film Review: PK

An alien trying to return home tangles with religious authorities in a low-key Bollywood message drama. More »

A Small Section
Film Review: A Small Section of the World

Worthy but uninvolving documentary about the coffee-producing women of Costa Rica. More »

Sagrada
Film Review: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

The fabulous 130-year work-in-progress that is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, as well as its crazy-brilliant originator, Antonio Gaudi, is the focus of this vividly informative documentary. More »

Inside the Mind of Leonardo
Film Review: Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D

Documentary-feature hybrid that offers unexpected insight into the world of Leonardo da Vinci, but nonetheless suffers from a heavy hand and pretentious sensibility. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. 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