Ewan Gleadow

TV Review: Pretend It’s A City

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Copyright: Netflix

Fran Lebowitz, author and public speaker, has a lot on her mind. Pretend It’s A City offers a brief series of musings from the brilliantly cynical brain of this powerful public speaker. Documented by the great Martin Scorsese in his second collation of Lebowitz’s work, this Netflix original is a rare, inspired surprise. Taking the interview format on the road, and giving Lebowitz the free reign of topics and style of delivery, this series of seven short episodes takes a wonderfully unique form. Picking apart the mundane and the mighty, any and all topics are torn through by an observant New Yorker who hates the city she loves and lives in. 

With engaging, interesting conversations that splice interviews with talks and stock footage that match Lebowitz’s experiences around the world, Pretend It’s A City is a mighty piece of inspired documentary filmmaking. Much of the promise within the premise comes from how pleasant and unique a person Lebowitz is. To listen to her speeches and interviews is a rewarding adventure, her opinions and anecdotes roll off the tongue rather well. Strong stories of her adulthood, the time she has spent in New York is captured incredibly with Scorsese’s direction. It makes for a light, fun watch, pocket-sized episodes that are short and sweet, yet offer such unique and enlightened perspective every episode. 

Pretend It’s a City features someone stuck in the past, trying to navigate the future. Lebowitz doesn’t plan on sticking around for long, her attitude and philosophy is self-preservation and a rejection of modernity. There is something quite comforting in those remarks of accidental insolence. Here, there are six episodes of comfortable thoughts, and then a final episode that brings out a love of arts, books and music like no other. With such a specific focus for that final episode comes a tone and style that appears throughout every instalment to precede it, but without the microscopic focus of such a tiny pocket of art history. Andy Warhol, film criticism and Lebowitz’s early work with her I Cover The Waterfront column, it all comes together with such charming credibility.  

Striking, engaging, and thoroughly addictive, this tour of Lebowitz’s mind and her musings on The Big Apple are hilarious. Her commentary of the cramped streets and history of the city is a relaxing return to the realities of a pre-pandemic life. It engages with the promise and beauty of an ugly collation of high rises, ignorance and culture, painting a vivid image full of witty anecdotes and adamant opinions. With such a unique take on display, it is an incredible testament to Lebowitz’s forthright opinions on modernity. Scorsese takes audiences through a series of engaging brilliance, and as they continue, they feel sculpted more by the subject, rather than the director.