“New York Memories” mixes excerpts from Rosa von Praunheim’s Gotham filmings over the past four decades with an overview of the city’s own changes during that span, adding the experiences of several German expats he’s known there as a sometime Manhattanite. A lesser joint from this prolific, always interesting veteran helmer, docu covers terrain already well trod or primarily of import to himself and his most dedicated acolytes. Nonetheless, it’s an ultimately engaging if lightweight scrapbook that should find favor at gay fests and in German-language tube markets.
Since the early 1970s, von Praunheim has spent substantial time in what he calls “the gayest city in the world.” His camera captured the liberated hedonism of the 1970s, AIDS activism in the “catastrophic ’80s” and the mixed bag of crime crackdown, homelessness, decreased diversity and skyrocketing living costs in the Giuliani era and beyond. Celebrities are glimpsed, but the principal interviewees are director’s long-term German friends; they include stars of his 1989 film “Survival in New York,” plus aspiring writer/actress sisters he’s known since their childhood. Personal stories are sometimes dramatic, though pic overall lacks a strong focus.