Most of lower Manhattan has undergone a significant change in recent years as gentrification and new investments have rapidly altered not only the cultural landscape of the area notorious for being the shelter of New York City’s “other half,” but also the signature revival-style architecture that defined the district in favor of larger, steel-and-glass structures. The common phrase is that the city is ever in a state of flux, and perhaps this is no better understood than by tracing how downtown New York has evolved from its inglorious past to its current incarnation.
The landmark 1956 documentary On The Bowery, directed by Lionel Rogosin, was among the first of its kind to realistically portray New York’s skid row through the cinema verite style, and received great critical acclaim upon it’s initial release, winning the Grand Prize for Documentary at the Venice Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category. When viewing the film today it is hard to imagine the city on the screen is the same city that we live in and walk through daily. Yet, the film pulses with energy and gusto as the camera follows Ray Salyer, a Bowery local and railroad worker, as he drifts between bars and alleyways, always entangled in a mass of interesting characters. But, Ray’s story is one of strangled hope, whether or not he will rise above the decaying influence of the area, or if he will succumb to it. In a one night only engagement, On The Bowery will be screened on April 14 at The Graduate Center, CUNY, in a rare opportunity to see a truly remarkable snapshot of a bygone cultural landscape of New York’s past. Historians Daniel Czitrom, Marci Reaven, and Suzanne Wasserman will offer commentary afterwards.
On The Bowery will be screened on April 14, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. in Elabash Recital Hall, The Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue). Tickets may be purchased by calling 212.868.4444.