Revel in New York

Revel in New York is a smart series of mini-docs covering a Big Apple subspecies that shares an inescapable common denominator: their jobs are much cooler than yours.

Each urbanite featured is involved in one way or another with an artistic career, either overtly (the Bushwick, Brooklyn art-making collective), or in more of an under-the-table fashion (Adam Moskowitz is a cheese monger who, we eventually learn in the closing credits, is also a painter and rapper). The artistic range encompasses rock stars Brazilian Girls, wacky live performer Ann Liv Young (sort of a Karen Finley meets Paul McCarthy), publicist Susan Blond (a former minor Warhol girl) and even Al Sharpton, who, it turns out, claimed James Brown as something of a father figure early in his adulthood.

The mini-doc format is consistent without being repetitive – the subjects themselves tell the stories of their jobs/lives, some a little more talking-head heavy (Moskowitz), others with more photo and/or video accompaniment (cartoonist Ted Rall).

The foot model/call girlEmilyis my choice for the most intriguing of the lot, though not necessarily the most memorable. Once you’ve seen most of the 20 roughly 4-minute shorts produced so far, Mr. Moskowitz and illustrator/burlesque host/dancer Molly Crabapple both stay in your head.

Emily’s Feet alternates a slide-photo deconstruction of foot fetishism with video of her showing off her wares – both ‘naked’ and shod – as well as video of her in scholarly-looking glasses calmly and articulately enlightening us on her world and the clients within it.

The tension inherent in the dichotomies – a sex model without ‘sex,’ at least in the traditional sense; a model who is ‘kinky in her personal life,’ and clients with their own lives/families who in the oddest cases request to eat an ice cream sundae off her feet – provides an intimate cross-section of NYC’s underbelly.

None of the subjects are short for words, and yet thankfully egos are kept taught under the directors’ reins. Meanwhile, it must be said, the work shown often proves to be far more interesting than the person who makes it (artist Trenton Doyle Hancock, photographer Fred Cray, choreographer Noemie LaFrance, etc.). What the subjects are willing to show us about themselves isn’t particularly inspiring, which makes the installments like PBS Art in the 21st Century-style mini-portraits.

That’s all fine and well, but the question becomes: is it more interesting to revel in the characters, or the work they produce? Or, is there no need for that kind of binary thinking?

Revel in New York In the piece on photographer Fred Cray, indeed, we get to watch him literally revel in New York, from the now relatively homogenized Manhattan to the never-ending variety of Brooklyn, Cray really does in fact revel. By comparison, many of the profiled individuals make you wonder how much of what they do is connected to the city and its extremes, or if it’s just a coincidence that they happen to live there.

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