Recommended Film: "The Visitor" * Footage of Washington Sq Park Pre-Construction * Now Playing at Cinema Village

The Visitor
The Visitor

A few months ago, on a spur-of-the-moment whim, I caught the film “The Visitor” while it was playing at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). I was very touched by the story and recommend seeing it. The story begins with Walter, a professor at a college in Connecticut, who is sleep walking through his life when he is coerced into presenting a paper at a conference at N.Y.U. He has an apartment in the Village that he rarely frequents. Once he arrives, he discovers he has house guests and, in an unusual mode of behavior, he invites them to stay with him. This opens him up to a re-awakening of his spirit and soul through music, friendships and locales. The story takes some unexpected turns, some sad, some sweet. The acting is all very strong and holds up the premise of how a chance encounter, the moment when a person steps out of his day-to-day conventions, how the reaction to that moment can change a person’s life and open up new vistas.

The film at points takes Walter through Washington Square Park and the footage of the Park, pre-construction, is bittersweet.

It’s a bit heartbreaking to see the trees that once lined the fountain (now chopped down). They were an integral part of the much loved look and feel of Washington Square Park. (How many movies feature that shot from above of the Arch, the fountain, and the trees lining it? Yes, the fountain unaligned with the Arch, this was a classic shot – New York City, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park.)

“The Visitor” is now playing at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street between University Place and 5th Avenue, #212/924-3363.

A. O. Scott of The New York Times’ wrote of “The Visitor”:

Early in “The Visitor,” Tom McCarthy’s second film as writer and director (the first was “The Station Agent”), it seems inevitable that something will come along to shake Walter out of his malaise. And sure enough, when he reluctantly travels to New York to deliver a paper at a conference, Walter finds that the Manhattan apartment he keeps but rarely visits has been surreptitiously rented to Tarek, a drummer from Syria, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, who sells handmade jewelry at flea markets. Walter’s initial dismay and irritation gives way to an instinctive flicker of compassion, and he invites the couple to stay, at least for a short while.

The curious thing about “The Visitor” is that even as it goes more or less where you think it will, it still manages to surprise you along the way. Tarek and Walter quickly become friends, though Zainab is more reserved and also clearly more suspicious of her new housemate and benefactor. Walter takes up drumming, and begins to feel his zest for life and his appreciation of New York returning after a long period of dormancy.

Official film site.

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