The Lorax of the gentrificationscape has arrived: Anyone who’s seen the buildings come down and condos go up in rubble-strewn Williamsburg will relate to filmmaker Su Friedrich’s intimate sense of dislocation, her increasing alienation from a neighborhood that spins her into a rage. A professor at Princeton and longtime feminist voice, Friedrich takes to charting every new construction on a map (the red dots soon exceed 150 sites), and when she can’t secretly videotape the besuited business types scouting her block, she scrawls angry graffiti and spits invective: “Welcome to the neighborhood—you’re ruining it!” she yells off a rooftop.
When Friedrich slows down to focus on blue-collar businesses losing their livelihoods, Gut Renovation is a lot more persuasive than during its cutesy pop montages and plodding countdowns—her technique isn’t up to her passion. She’s good at collecting the details of an invading horde of strangers with their “fancy dogs,” skinny jeans and iPods. (One prominent shot features copies of this magazine as further evidence.) But the director’s own swooning sense of entitlement seems beyond her comprehension, apart from a fleeting mention of the way she hates rich people. The navel-gazing artist class that gave Williamsburg its character (now more of a marketable “brand”) has in Friedrich both a vigorous defender and, it must be said, something close to an angry parody of itself.
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