DOCUMENTARY DAYS - BOOKWARS

Five years in the making, Jason Rosette's documentary on street booksellers in Manhattan is as much a record of the DIY marketplace's ups and downs as it is a keen character study. Having been a bookseller himself for some time after graduating from NYU with an empty wallet, Rosette is allowed firsthand access into a realm where someone with a camera might otherwise be treated with hostile suspicion. He captures plenty, and the film is at its best when it illustrates the various personalities and backgrounds of the sellers.

A good deal of them are vastly passionate and knowledgeable about literature; they have their individual methods of business, their little idiosyncrasies that make it seem more like a "real" job (several guys, for instance, pack their books only in cardboard banana boxes Ñ "It's a tradition"). Rosette even follows them off the sidewalk when, for various reasons (winter cold, the fuzz, Giuliani's crusade), they canÕt open shop; one, a charismatic and resourceful fellow named Peter, even resorts to washing and grooming people's cats in his off-street period. The personable sequences, combined with the tensions of various clashes with the NYPD, make for absorbing, fascinating filmmaking. (Sunset 5; Sat.-Sun., Nov. 11-12, 10 a.m. Monica 4-Plex; Sat.-Sun., Nov. 18-19, 11 a.m.)

Nicole Campos