Monday, November 19, 2012

The Real Fun City - '69

My aunt and uncle recently located some old 8mm home movies and had them transferred to video.  In that cache was a reel apparently shot by my late father in John Lindsay's New York, or "Fun City," as it would come to be known thanks to a much-ridiculed Lindsay soundbite, sometime in mid to late 1969.  Dad would have been 21 then.  Theater displays for Easy Rider (released in July '69) and Popi (May '69) and a news ticker reporting on "Kennedy's auto accident" give us a pretty concrete idea of when this was photographed (likely July).  I can't tell exactly where all this was shot, but there are some distinct Harlem locations such as the Apollo (James Brown!) and a block of apartments that reminds me of similar shots in Ashby's The Landlord (a film shot primarily in Park Slope, Brooklyn).

There's a humorous streak that I can detect in this reel, which jibes with my dad's personality, as I remember him.  And, I sense an appreciation of day-to-day life and interesting faces that I think was passed down to my brother and me, manifested in our shared passion for the photographic arts and the impulse to document things through those mediums.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film is the way the camera captures the faces of the people--many times the subjects engage with the camera, whether to smile or duck away (as in the case of a Hasidic man).  In other words, it's as if the act of filming and being filmed is a pretty big deal, even to hardened, seen-it-all New Yorkers.  It may be that people weren't so accustomed to being filmed or taped, as video cameras were years away and I'm guessing even 8mm cameras were not so commonplace.  I'm assuming the cost of shooting even on Super 8 would have been fairly costly due to the expense of blank film and then the processing and development of the film.  In any event, my dad managed to pack quite a bit into his 6+ minutes seen here.  A few seconds were lost, unfortunately, to some ugly video noise that occurred during the film-to-video transfer.


Her, Suzanne76 said...

this is really awesome footage from a really awesome time. and extra extra awesome that this was shot from your Dad's hands and seen through your Dad's eyes

Ned Merrill said...

Yes, it's a pretty cool artifact and special because it came from my dad. I love this period as well.

Tiffany Perez-King said...

This is wonderful. Man, your dad was shooting Marquees, posters, and the beat of that very particular NYC. 'Fun City' to be precise. How touching it is that you share many of these same interests. And yes, the faces, the 'characters' - another shared concern. And these similarities showcased and delivered through a camera and a film that'd been 'lost' till your aunt and uncle discovered it. It's almost too beautiful and perfect. And Magic.

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks for the words, as usual, bill teck! I can't help but think there were probably more reels like this at some point that were lost over the years in moves, etc.