Rent it now: Fran Lebowitz’s juicy ‘Public Speaking’ DVD

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Fans of HBO productions often complain that HBO DVDs tend to cost more than the video lines of competing companies and that the Time Warner subsidiary is often stingy with the extras, too.

Fortunately, the DVD of the terrific 2010 Martin Scorsese documentary, “Public Speaking” has a bunch of deleted scenes and some amusing behind-the scenes material about the creation of this highly acclaimed film about the New York humorist Fran Lebowitz.

The Scorsese/Lebowitz collaboration consists of a series of recent interviews with Lebowitz at the Waverly Inn seamlessly intercut with college lecture appearances and a public forum at the 92nd St. Y.

The beautifully shot and edited film gives us the world view of a very witty and very cynical New Yorker who likes few of the changes she’s seen in her adopted home since she arrived 40 years ago.

Lebowitz has been famously suffering from writer’s block since two collections of her written work, “Metropolitan Life” and “Social Studies,” were published more than 30 years ago.

“Public Speaking” shows us that Lebowitz is as sharp and as funny as ever but that she has focused on college lectures and acerbic interviews while trying to complete a novel she signed a contract for many years ago.

Lebowitz’s public speaking has allowed the writer to be able to afford to stay in New York and to hang out with famous friends that include Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who co-produced the movie and who provided his Greenwich Village bistro as a primary location.

Lebowitz is such a good talker — on so many topics — that someone should give her a regular TV forum on which she could riff about popular culture.

Years ago, talk show host David Susskind used to turn over an hour or more each year to Gore Vidal for what was called “The State of the Union” where the brilliant essayist and novelist could talk about anything that interested him at that moment. TV talk shows have changed radically since then, but surely there is some cable channel that could give Lebowitz an hour or two each year.

The DVD serves up several deleted scenes from Lebowitz’s conversation with Scorsese at the Waverly Inn and some very funny stuff showing how the master filmmaker had to physically change the restaurant for his moviemaking purposes.

Joe Meyers

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