To tour the Big Apple without the fear of encountering muggers, blackouts or terrorist attacks, “Visions of New York City” is the next best thing to being there. The one-hour documentary, created for public television in 2004, is a high-flying, visual guide to the city that never sleeps. (So if do go, take. Your. Earplugs.)
It’s exceedingly slick and well-produced; the tourism department would be pleased. But part of NYC’s charm is in the grime, in the semi-shady places, in the crazed faces of some of its out-there residents, in the smell of the subway, in the noise pollution of the never-ending hustle and bustle. For a roundabout run of iconic structures, however, “Visions” is your ticket.
The camera never stops, and it approaches its subjects from wide, cool angles, giving you a view you otherwise wouldn’t get, short of being Superman. The nighttime shots are particularly breathtaking. If only NPR commentator Frank Deford’s narration weren’t so vanilla. With the exception of a snippet of Gershwin’s ever-sublime “Rhapsody in Blue,” the same can be said for the rather senior-skewing soundtrack.
My suggestion? Given the quasi-caffeinated cinematography, turn down the volume, cue up Philip Glass’ score to “Koyaanisqatsi,” and then you’ll really heart New York. “Rod Lott