I was reading A.O. Scott’s 10.16 review of Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which opened Friday, and suddenly came upon a great little time-machine revery.
The film, says Scott, is “catnip for the bookish. It will also appeal to anyone with nostalgia for a generally under-appreciated era in New York history, when the high glamour felt a little scuffed, the urban apocalypse had been postponed, and Manhattan abounded in bookstores and scruffy gay bars. Enough of these are still around — including Argosy Book Store on East 59th and Julian’s Books on West 10th — to provide the film with locations and an atmosphere of lived-in cosmopolitan bohemianism. There were no Starbucks or co-working spaces back then. A person could breathe, and read.”
No Starbucks, no Coffee Beans, no cell phones (which started to appear in semi-significant numbers around ’95, but they weren’t ubiquitous until the late ’90s), VHS rentals at Blockbuster Video, no laser discs or DVDs, Wordstar and dial-up internet…the almost rickety-like quaintness! Somebody could make a short film showing what life was like 27 years ago, and it would feel like the beginning of The Magnificent Ambersons.
You wouldn’t have believed all the newsprint inside New York subway cars back then. Not to mention Metro North commuter trains. No smart phones, no laptops…people just read newspapers. Hell, I used to write for the N.Y. Times, N.Y. Post, Newsday, N.Y. Daily News, Washington Post, etc. Those were the days.