A few entries back I posted a short film, 3rd Avenue El, which I’d run across thanks to Bowery Boys. When I first watched it, I noticed at the end a tag indicating the film had been posted to the web by weirdovideo.com, which sounded like something worth checking out. Turns out they do have weirdo videos of all stripes, though I was particularly interested in their archive of vintage New York films. They’ve got an eclectic selection, ranging from classic Edison shorts, to footage of a dangerous baby elephant being put down at Coney Island, to the trailer for a mid-century meta-porn extravaganza called The Smut Peddler.
One of the most rewarding things I watched (next to The Smut Peddler, of course) was an early-1960s short called How to Live in a City — a sort of Jane Jacobs-esque brief on behalf of well-designed urban public space. It’s clearly coming from a moment when public space in the city is highly contested (though one could argue public space is always highly contested in a city like this). The filmmakers oppose new directions in public and private housing that favor individualism over community: the “private terrace” is a blight on traditional neighborhood life, while the stoop is idealized. There’s great footage here of several sites — Washington Square Park, Mulberry Street during San Gennaro, Seagram Plaza, the MoMA sculpture garden, and long-vanished bocce courts at Houston and Bowery, where old Italian men, we’re told, were happily teaching their game to new Puerto Rican immigrants. Now their more fortunate descendants can buy grass-fed beef and dandelion greens at Whole Foods. Enjoy!