In late 2008, I saw a 70-minute movie called The Pleasure of Being Robbed and loved it. The actual review has been lost—thanks to “computers”—but a contemporaneous essay (which contrasts the movie to same-time release Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) survives with some insights intact:
About a young white girl who steals handbags and other things to satisfy her curiosity about strangers, The Pleasure of Being Robbed shows the city as still rife with street crime; but, among other things, the thieving serves as an allegory for the “crime” of gentrification…crime, in a moral rather than legal sense, is still rampant [in NY], but it’s largely invisible. As I wrote, the film suggests “New York is still full of thieves, as it was before Mr. 9/11, but the city now maintains a satisfying illusion of safety.” There’s no scapegoatable boogeyman, no imposing stranger to fear meeting in a dark alley, no racial prejudice to exploit. Star Eléonore Hendricks shows no regard for OPP, but always affable, smiling and kind to animals, she is difficult to perceive as a threat. She even adopts a litter of kittens and their mother. But she is a greater threat than the urchins of the 70s — she doesn’t want our money, but she does want our things, our books, photographs and possessions: the things by which we often define ourselves. Our culture.
(A “satisfying illusion of safety”!? That ties into a line from an upcoming reported piece: “Gentrification is not about what’s been achieved but about the illusion that achievement has occurred.”)
Anyway, the movie got panned by the New York critics, and I felt all alone as Josh Safdie apologist. Then, this year, Daddy Longlegs came out and everybody thought that Josh Safdie, now directing with his brother Ben, was hot shit. So, what better time to revisit Pleasure to see if I was right?
All day today, BAM screens it as part of their Safdie Brothers-curated mini-festival, which we wrote about yesterday. Ben Safdie and star Eleonore Hendricks will be in person at the 6:50 screening! See the movie, love it, and prove me right, New York. Now that you’ve seen Daddy Longlegs you’ll be able to untangle this movie’s cryptic themes more easily. Like, last night, I watched the Insomnia remake (for the first time since 2002 when I thought, “boooooring!!”) and I was all like, “oh it’s like a Dark Knight rough draft”. Something similar will surely happen to you, today.