The Cruise

Dir. Bennett Miller. 1998. Starring: Timothy “Speed” Levitch. English. Documentary.
The Cruise

The hook of The Cruise is that most New York tour guides are jaded wage slaves repeating the same statistics and soulless anecdotes to dozens of tourists every day, but “Speed” views his “loops” as an opportunity to communicate the transcendental joy of being alive in New York, a city he anthropomorphizes in different forms, giving the film a second character, and in a sense a plot. Miller operated the camera himself and he manages to shoot New York with a sensual, humble idiosyncrasy worthy of “Speed” himself. The last shot of the film feels a touch contrived, but the presence of the World Trade Center’s erstwhile towers will haunt any viewer.

It’s difficult, and perhaps impossible to impart the appeal of the documentary The Cruise without quoting its protagonist Timothy “Speed” Levitch at some length; this is in itself a disservice to any potential viewer of The Cruise because the poetry of Speed’s erudition is best seen “live”, being delivered spontaneously by the man himself, rather than being read. Speed’s hyper-articulateness must be heard to be appreciated. To listen to Speed’s quotidian orations is to discover a human being who can extemporaneously compose sentences of Jamesian complexity. So fear not, gentle reader. His words are yours to discover.

Was that last paragraph redundant and self-reflexive? Yes, as is The Cruise, but the film has a vulnerability and sensuality that will immediately ingratiate itself with any viewer, no matter how defensive they are to the idea of liking a film made by Bennett Miller, director of the conventional, but well-received 2004 release, Capote. Fun fact: Capote screenwriter and nebbish sex symbol Dan Futterman is credited on The Cruise as unit driver.

The humanist scope of the story as well as the low tech production values position the film as a transcendent example of the superiority of Naturalistic documentaries over more bombastic films like Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi that favor vague thematic and aesthetic content over individual histories and characters. One can hope that the talented Miller will return to crafting personal films such as this one, of a romantic flaneur living with dreams and dignity.

Posted by:
Gillian Horvat
Nov 19, 2008 7:45pm
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