While reading our essays for class, I kept coming back to this film I had watched in a documentary class. It was called “The Cruise,” and it was the most hilariously eccentric portrait of a man living in the city. The man is Timothy “Speed” Levitch and he has a LOT to say. And many of his historical quips and musings correspond with the terms and ideas that Simmel and de Certeau write about.
Simmel writes about individuality and the eccentric in his essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” and about how one’s “extremities and peculiarities and individualizations must be produced and they must be over-exaggerated merely to be brought into the awareness” (Simmel 110). Timothy “Speed” Levitch is that eccentric. He is an amazing example of the city eccentric when he states in minute 50 of the film, “I don’t care if [individualism] is a delusion. I don’t care if I have the same infrastructure as plants. I want to be the plant that grows the highest. I want to be the bean stalk. I want to be the flower that smells most profusely, that veers most drastically towards the sunlight.” He wants to be the one that stands out the most. As he says this, he is walking through central park among many other people, him standing out to us the most.
“Speed” Levitch also talks about the planned city like de Certeau does. De Certeau states the planned city, “is a differentiation and redistribution of the parts and functions of the city, as a result of inversions, displacements, accumulations, etc…there is [also] a rejection of everything that is not capable of being dealt with in this way” (de Certeau 113). “Speed” talks about the grid system just as de Certeau critiques planned cities: “The grid plan emanates from our weaknesses…to me the grid plan is puritan, it’s homogenizing in a city where there is no homogenization available. There is only total existence, total cacophony, a total flooring of human ethnicities and tribes and beings from gradations of awareness and conscienceness.” (Miller 39). He believes that the gird plan is forcing us to act and move in one certain way and humans were not meant to be moving in right angles all of our lives. “Speed” is a desired-path type of guy.
One major aspect of “The Cruise” is Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s relationship with the New York’s architecture. “Speed” is always shown on street-level, with buildings towering over him and engulfing him (and a great scene when he spins around between the twin towers until he gets dizzy and looks up so it seems that the towers are falling in on him). His “cruising” dialogue about the Empire state building relays his feelings of inadequacies towards the structure: “If architecture is the history of all phallic emotions, the Empire State Building is utter catharsis. And we are sitting in its silhouette” (Miller 24). Another scene, he caresses one building like he is in love with it and states that he is most happy when he and the bridge are one. It is almost in contrast to seeming like a little ant, but he somehow seems to become larger than life by living under these towering structures.
Here is a link to watch the full film online
Miller, Bennett. The Cruise. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 1998. DVD.
Simmel, Georg, “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” The Blackwell City Reader. 2nd ed. Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
De Certeau, Michel “The Practice of Everyday Life.” The Blackwell City Reader. 2nd ed. Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.