The Gods of Times Square (review)

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There was an era, which ended not too long ago, when New York’s Times Square was a vibrant public arena populated by corner preachers, independent shop owners, and a Cracker Jack assortment of colorful and outspoken street people. They’re mostly gone today, swept up in Rudy Giuliani’s gentrification of a neighborhood that’s now given over to chain stores and tourists. This is filmmaker Richard Sandler’s record of the ending of that era, shot over six years in the mid 1990s, a collection of literal man- (and woman-) on-the-street interviews with the eclectic personalities that have since gone the way of the porn shops and the junkies. Winner of the Best Documentary awards at both the Chicago Underground Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival in 1999, the film is an amiable tribute to and portrait of a moment in time and the unique characters who inhabited it, though it does, perhaps, drag on for far longer than it needs to do to make its point: that something strange and special was lost in an effort to “clean up” a distinctive neighborhood succeeded in rendering it as homogeneous as the places it was a reaction against. Also included are 90 minutes of additional documentary material, including “The Gods of Times Squared.” [buy at Amazon]

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