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Bill DiPietra

NYC - The look & the vibe (Then & Now)

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"The French Connection" has a great variety of New York in the early 70s: the Upper East Side, Dumbo, Lower East Side, Midwood, Ft Green. The city adds so much character to the visual language of that film.

 

Many of Jarmusch's films have some great LES scenes too.

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"The French Connection" has a great variety of New York in the early 70s: the Upper East Side, Dumbo, Lower East Side, Midwood, Ft Green. The city adds so much character to the visual language of that film.

 

The French Connection, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, & Serpico are the definitive "NYC in the 70s" films for me.

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For me, not having grown up in New York or even having visited up until a few years ago, the movies are how I came to know and love the city. So much so that within a few days of having landed, I felt very much at home. In my mind, New York is like some mythical homeland built out of collective celluloid memory. It is that aspect of locations that I find most interesting. When a film captures a certain truth, a fleeting impression of what it is (or was) like to exist in a particular place and moment in time, then I think there's a certain kinship born between that place and the viewer. Too often, locations are just backdrops and don't signify anything.

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"Taxi Driver" as well.

 

Definitely. There are actually a ton of films that were shot in New York City during the70s that depict some unique aspect of the city that only NYC owned.

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The thing is that the early days of gentrification, when life and money starts to flow back into an area that was on the decline, is always an exciting time -- you get this frisson as the old neighborhoods are rediscovered, revisited, and some old institutions flourish once again. But you can't stop the change at the spot where you'd like it to stop, what happens is that greed takes over, big money moves in, and then they demand a return on their investment. Often even the hipsters that brought new life and attention to the old neighborhood can no longer afford to live there. They end up killing what they loved about the old place.

 

I just hope that we avoid overly-romanticizing a period of decline out of nostalgia -- I'm sure there were plenty of old-time New Yorkers who weren't happy about what the city had devolved into by the 1970's. Look at all the vigilante movies of the 1970's where someone is trying to stop all the crime in their old neighborhood.

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For a visual standpoint, I love the New York built out of stone and brick before the glass and steel skyscrapers took over. I love photos of the old skyline from the 1950's and before, with all of the ships parked along the shores.

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For a visual standpoint, I love the New York built out of stone and brick before the glass and steel skyscrapers took over. I love photos of the old skyline from the 1950's and before, with all of the ships parked along the shores.

 

Without a doubt. I prefer to go even further back to around the 1890s. That's when the city was still being erected.

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I'm not sure when this might have been taken. That's the Sixth Avenue El in front of Radio City Music Hall. The El was taken down in 1938, so I would say this is the late 20s/early 30s, judging by the cars. But I could be off...

 

post-45-0-37457800-1448677481_thumb.jpg

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I'm not sure when this might have been taken. That's the Sixth Avenue El in front of Radio City Music Hall. The El was taken down in 1938, so I would say this is the late 20s/early 30s, judging by the cars. But I could be off...

 

attachicon.gif2.jpg

 

Judging by the marquis, I believe it is 1934. Just pulled up an old New York Times review on it.

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I think someone posted this once before, but it seems a pertinent visual example of the discussion we've been having. This is 1980 Times Square and looks to have been shot on 35mm with only ambient light from the streets. Quite different from the LED village it has become.

 

Anyway, enjoy.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCoNgKSDnJk&list=PLE384ECB6A6A2B11B&index=23

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Bill, I think I may have mentioned this when we met, but I think the profusion of LED video walls in advertising sucks some of the character out of places like Times Square (similar things have happened to the much less impressive Piccadilly Circus in London). Any piece of neon is an art installation; at the scales they exist on large exterior advertising, they were often very major art installations. Conversely, an LED video wall is just a giant TV, completely at the mercy of whatever's displayed on it and lacking individuality.

 

P

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Bill, I think I may have mentioned this when we met, but I think the profusion of LED video walls in advertising sucks some of the character out of places like Times Square (similar things have happened to the much less impressive Piccadilly Circus in London).

P

 

Not to mention the light pollution those things create. Garish and disgusting.

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Bill, I think I may have mentioned this when we met, but I think the profusion of LED video walls in advertising sucks some of the character out of places like Times Square (similar things have happened to the much less impressive Piccadilly Circus in London). Any piece of neon is an art installation; at the scales they exist on large exterior advertising, they were often very major art installations. Conversely, an LED video wall is just a giant TV, completely at the mercy of whatever's displayed on it and lacking individuality.

 

P

 

Phil, that discussion you and I had was one of the main reasons I decided to post that video. Considering you were just here, the drastic differences in that small part of NYC over 35 years probably have more of an impact on you, as opposed to someone who lives here and tends to automatically take his or her surroundings for granted until major changes start to take place.

 

But you said the magic word..."character." That's really what's changed but, as others have astutely pointed out, that happens everywhere. It's a matter of generational, political and primarily economical shifts that fuel all these changes. More than anything, what I miss are the unique stores & restaurant/diners that you used to have to travel into Manhattan for because that's the only place in world that they existed.

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I have a ton of interesting locations in mind for my test shoot with 35mm, if I can get my cameras up and running. In the meantime I will shoot some scouting photos with hopefully some CineStill film to give myself an idea I can cook up. I hope to shoot in the summer.

 

I am always finding great locations here, I can't wait to get my IIC up and running !

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