More justice. Better as the DVD version
Eric V. Moye | New York, by way of Dallas | 10/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Burns family has come up with some fine work, from Baseball, to the Civil War; and now the latest, New York. A fine successor.
Ric Burns explores the early history of New York, starting with the God-created attributes of the region and one of the world's finest natural seaports. But the treasure is found in what man has added to the Apple, starting with the Erie Canal, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Subway system. The Bridge's history has itself been the subject of much scholarship, and Burns does it well also. The creation of the skyline, including the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building are some of the series best moments, filled with some of the fascinating type of information that fans of Burns' documentaries have come to expect and enjoy. The history of New York is the history of immigrants, and the interaction of Irish, Italians, Africans and other groups is splendidly examined. The politics of the City, such as the rise and demise of Al Smith and Jimmy Walker are well explored also. My few complaints are minor, and don't detract from the work. F. Scott Fitzgerald seems to have become a demi-god to Burns, and after awhile, I found the continued references to him and his
work tiring. More than a few minutes on the early history of Harlem would have been a welcome replacement.I purchased the DVD version, although I had the videocassettes. Am I glad I did! It has two additional discs, which try to bring the series up to date. Fiorello LaGuardia and Robert Moses, the two most pivotal figures in the history of the City, are splendidly explored. More examination of the development and contribution of Harlem (which I lamented in the review of the VHS version) is also welcomed. New York's post W.W. II predominance as the true center of the Earth is made plain. As the series progresses, we see the value of the City (any city), the destruction of the great and old in the name of urban renewal, and the slow cancer of suburban sprawl.Even those not from New York will find it to be a rich, interesting history, worth of the length of time one must devote to its viewing. The rest of the world will understand some of why New Yorkers love their home as they do. Those expatriate New Yorkers will be tugged to head back home. All in all, brilliant, brilliant work."
Do yourself a favor - GET THIS!
noir head | 08/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first sat down and watched this tremendous film on DVD, I was stunned at the magnitude of information it contains. I learned so much about New York's origins, I felt ashamed I knew so little about the world's greatest city.
As I got deeper into the film, I realised just how riveted I was at the musical score. What a tremendous soundtrack! The drawings, photos, camera sweeps and interviews come alive in a way that's hard to describe, when combined with the music.
I was taken aback by the weight of emotion (mostly sadness) that the documentary was able to well up inside of me; there were so many incidents I was unaware of in the city's history that are just heart-breaking. I learned so much about the city's lowlights but there are also a great deal of highlights too. I was extremely proud of the Statue of Liberty segment - tears literally filled my eyes as the inscription on the statue was read. That's the kind of emotion the film brings.
These are stories I'm not likely to ever forget. Because of the way Ric Burns and his team put them on film in a way that's more than watchable; it's simply stupendous.
This is the finest film I have ever witnessed."
As monumental as the city it examines
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 11/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in two stages (parts 1-5 in 1999 and parts 6-7 in 2001), Ric Burns' NEW YORK, to a new viewer, might feel sadly outdated. There's a lot of buoyancy and, as others have noted, a lot of "rah-rah-ism" going on. After all, the series was filmed during Wall Street's dotcom-induced high of the mid-90s, and all those smiles on the faces of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, writer Brendan Gill, and historian David McCullough are blissfully ignorant of what the economic collapse of 2000 and the events of 9/11/01 would do to Gotham and America. And the dozens upon dozens of shots of the World Trade Center are almost unbearable, at least to this New Yorker.But try, please, please try to look at this remarkable documentary from the point of view of a pre-Y2K American or, for that matter, from an American of the future not so horribly close to 9/11. I stress American because the documentary is so U.S.-focused it would bristle non-Americans. (Actually, it might even bristle non-New Yorkers.)If you can do that, you'll be in for one of the most insightful, poignant, monumental, and nothing less than brilliant films on the history of New York City ever made. I'm going to take that a step or two further--it is one of the best histories of NYC in any medium and one of the best documentaries on any subject ever made. The pacing is incredible. Part 1 which covers, roughly, the first 200 years of the city's existence reveals just how far back New York's roots extend. And yet, the minutes (and hours) go by quickly in spite of the extraordinary amount of information that's covered. The same can be said of the other six parts, as well. It's all so informative and brisk. And you'll be surprised how much native New Yorkers can learn about their own city!And not everything is so rah-rah, by the way. The film is brutally honest about the downsides to New York's history. From the Dutch war with the natives to the Draft Riots, from Jacob Riis' revelations about the horrors of tenement life through the Triangle Fire, from the Jimmy Walker scandal through the scandalous plans of Robert Moses, New York is rightfully indicted for the many atrocities commited within its borders.To examine each of the episodes here would be pointless--it would take too much time and still wouldn't express the importance of this film. I won't do that here. Ric Burns has created a brilliant installment to the brilliant American Experience series that I urge all New Yorkers, Americans and history-lovers to see.Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points Concluded(PS--As for the glimpses of the World Trade Center, Ric Burns did produce an eighth chapter (in 2003) to describe the rise and fall of those towers to bring this all up-to-date. The tone and timing were appropriate and I recommend that along with this set."
Gotham: The Capital of Capital
Anthony Chase | Fort Lauderdale, FL USA | 12/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Somewhere in the middle of NEW YORK'S ten hours of "lyrical historical documentary film," or whatever you want to call it, there are a few minutes where lines from a Walt Whitman poem are read over a series of shots of New York harbor. The combination of music and poetry and image comes about as close, I think, to perfection as filmmaking can get. There are a thousand stories in the naked city and this is just one of them, just one way of conceptualizing the history of the Americas' great city. I am not suggesting it is "true" or the whole story. I thought of things that might have been included but were not (Brendan Gill's insightful commentary on McKim, Mead & White's Villard Houses at Madison and 51st, to take just one example). But no one, in any medium, will ever craft a more powerful, brutal, or telling account of how New York has come to be. The film is so elegantly put together, so magical, you are constantly pushed to ask yourself whether this is not the film that Arthur Dove or W.C. Williams would have made, had their generation turned from painting and poetry to film. Just like New York or the nation's history, this documentary can break your heart."