Next stop, Gotham

Docu to screen at Toronto fest

Maybe it should be called “Speed 3,” the story of a wild Gotham bus tour guide named Timothy (Speed) Levitch.

But Bennett Miller’s indie docu — maybe the first theatrical feature filmed with a one-man crew and certainly the first feature entirely filmed in digital video — is called “The Cruise.”

After his brother told the aspiring filmmaker about Levitch, Miller decided to book a tour and found that Levitch wasn’t like any other tour guide Miller had seen or imagined.

Levitch is a true eccentric: a hyperintelligent loner who reveres Gotham and its architectural and literate history. He entertains his customers with unique orations about Manhattan, spewing forth an incredibly literate vocabulary, using lyrical metaphors to describe the urban surroundings while pointing out the residencies, hangouts and work spots of most of the great artists, thinkers and novelists who occupied the city in the past century.

Engaging subject

Miller saw in Levitch a perfect subject for his first full-length docu film. Unable to garner a substantial budget, Miller shot the film on digital video by himself.

“I was fascinated and intrigued by him,” Miller told Daily Variety. “He was interesting on simple, basic levels and fascinating because of the profound, spiritual aspects of his personality. He’s a very cinematic person, and as it turns out, very photogenic. It just became obvious that I should make a film about him.”

When Miller completed the pic, he entered it into the fest circuit, and it was picked up by Artisan Entertainment, which will release the film in Gotham on Oct. 23 and in L.A. on Nov. 6 after a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Manhattan serenade

What emerges in the final product is more of an indelible portrait of Manhattan than a capturing of its subject’s daily life. Levitch spends both his work hours and off hours cruising Manhattan’s streets, studying every building and alley, absorbing the energy. The film itself is the equivalent of one of Levitch’s tours of Gotham.

“His relationship with New York is really our window into him,” Bennett said. “His passion is the city, and my primary focus was to capture him and his passion.”

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