Directed by Oscar winner Martin Scorsese and produced by Emmy and Peabody winning documentary producer and Vanity Fair
editor Graydon Carter, along with Margaret Bodde, Public Speaking captures the essence of legendary New York bestselling writer Fran Lebowitz, who is perhaps most known for her unique take on modern life.
The film weaves together monologues, as well as footage from several of Lebowitz's speaking engagements, along with archival footage of Lebowitz from the 1970s to today which, showcases not only Lebowitz's unconventional worldview and experiences, but also shines a spotlight on her trademark
For Martin Scorsese to have directed this loving biopic about author Fran Lebowitz's life, one assumes that not only must she have enormous talent, but that she, as a character, can also entertain viewers enough to warrant the making of a feature-length documentary. Indeed, as Lebowitz says in one interview among the many here, she is first and foremost a public speaker, a woman who takes talking to a high art form after she dreamed, as a child, that people would care about her opinions. Public Speaking
chronicles a truly iconoclastic author and thinker whose satirically barbed wit is hilarious and controversial on the page, as well as onscreen. In her interviews she pontificates most vocally about her experiences as a New Yorker, as a writer, journalist, feminist, smoker (yes, she actually takes the protection of cigarette smoking rights up as a cause), and gay rights activist. What it adds up to, in her words, is a devotion to maintaining individual freedom. Most poignant, however, are the scenes in which she places herself historically within a New York cultural framework, as she remembers first writing for Andy Warhol's Interview
magazine, then publishing her first hit novel, Metropolitan Life
. Of course, while tracking any influential author's career is important, Scorsese does a wonderful job of taking a wider cultural stance, occasionally editing in footage of James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, and other radical authors to trace an American history of literary satire's ties to political causes. Lebowitz, who has been called a modern-day Dorothy Parker, astutely expresses brilliant, miniature rants on topics ranging from how wit could be connected to religious and cultural roots, to the equal importance of smart cultural audiences and artists. Lebowitz's overt manner and confidence is at first jarring, but as one settles in to listen to the many interesting points she makes, one realizes that her bold tone underpins her undying interest in watching urban culture mutate. If at first one is taken aback by what could be construed as Lebowitz's giant ego, one is likely to be swayed in her favor, coming to terms with the fact that, as she says to her friend Toni Morrison in one interview, that she's "almost always right." --Trinie Dalton