Men at Lunch
Men at Lunch

GFF 2013: Men at Lunch

2/5 stars
Film review by Chris Buckle.
Published 20 February 2013

'Lunch atop a Skyscraper’ is undoubtedly a potent photograph, securely stitched into New York’s rich iconography. The oft-reproduced shot of eleven steelworkers posing precariously above the city’s streets continues to exert a queasy fascination among even the most mildly acrophobic, while its wider contextual significance – symbolic of modern New York’s very formation, capturing a moment when both its skyline and melting pot population were still works in progress – would seem to offer great potential for documentary analysis. Unfortunately, this potential goes unrealised in Men at Lunch, which drowns its subject in sentimentality and hyperbole. A florid voiceover delivers a mix of overstatements (tourists visiting the building’s observatory are “drawn by one of Manhattan’s greatest legends” apparently – as opposed to, say, simply seeking an impressive view) and banal conclusions (the mostly anonymous workers are everymen; “they are all of us”), and while some interviewees proffer genuine insights worth pondering, these can’t balance the film’s wayward focus and runaway aggrandisement. [Chris Buckle]

There’s no doubt ‘Lunch atop a Skyscraper’ is a potent photograph, securely stitched into New York’s rich iconography. The oft-reproduced shot of eleven steelworkers posing precariously above the city’s streets continues to exert a queasy fascination for even the most mildly acrophobic, while its wider contextual significance – symbolic of modern New York’s very formation, capturing a moment when both its skyline and melting pot population were still works in progress – would seem to offer great potential for documentary analysis. Unfortunately, the potential goes unrealised in Men at Lunch, which drowns its subject in sentimentality and hyperbole. A florid voiceover delivers a mix of overstatements (tourists visiting the building’s observatory are “drawn by one of Manhattan’s greatest legends” apparently – as opposed to, say, simply seeking an impressive view) and banal conclusions (the mostly anonymous workers are everymen; “they are all of us”), and while some interviewees proffer genuine insights worth pondering, these can’t balance the film’s wayward focus and runaway aggrandisement.

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