Documentary directed by
By Bob Campbell
If cable access TV offered a movie night, Jason Rosette's
"BookWars" could be its signature attraction.
Imagine a glossily expensive screen profile of swinging
stockbrokers and Internet fortune-hunters.. Now imagine the
opposite: a funky, homemade video documentary about
scroungy loners pursuing the most archaic of trades,
peddling used books on the streets of New York.
In today's go-go context, "BookWars'" cranky independents
seem strangely heroic.
During his own three-year selling stint on West Fourth
street, just outside New York University, Jason Rosette
chronicled the vendor life via Super-8 film, digital
imaging and a gaggle of video formats. Narrated by the
director with neo-beatnik mock bombast, this discount
documentary fondly celebrates the trade's eccentrics and
their struggled against an unsympathetic Giuliani
Rosette's own on-the-ground savvy permits knowing
distinctions between his won bookish Fourth Street gang and
the more raffish Sixth Avenue crew, who specializes in
tattered comic books and skin mags.
For most dealers, surpsrisingly, this isn't just a fill-in
occupation. It's a career and a ten or 12 hour-a-day
lifestyle. Down time is devoted to storage duties, book
restoration and scavenging through suburban house sales. In
season, the daily take can range from $50 to "a few hundred
Rosette passes on a few tricks of the trade-sealing a
publication in plastic can quadruple its price..
Severa lof his colorful recalcitrants have had substance
abuse problems, a couple may still have them. They're not
particularly socialized. One gaunt, shaggy long-timer
drives off customers whose tastes offend him.
Unsurprisingly, many are highly verbal in an idiosyncratic
way. Sly collage-maker Pete, whose Newark loft is a
funhouse of books, art projects, and toad-themed objects,
blithely reels off a passage that is by "the divine Marquis
(de Sade)". If any enjoy personal relationships beyond
professional cameraderie, the camera isn't letting us know.
Their backgrounds remain mysterious.
"BookWars" consists mainly of archetypal Manhattan street
scenes, oddball encounters and workplace chit-chat. Yet,
all in all, the film is a weirdly charming nod to a noble
profession. Rating Note: Street Language