Lost Bohemia, a 2011 documentary by Josef Astor, is a sad and spirited elegy for the Carnegie Hall Studios, which for more than a century provided working, living and teaching space for all kinds of artists on the floors above the famous concert hall. It screens Sunday as part of One World Film Festival.
Astor, a photographer who moved into the building in 1985, pays tribute to his neighbors and friends who made up the last generation of studio residents. He also acknowledges the famous ghosts who haunt the place, ranging from Isadora Duncan and Enrico Caruso to Marilyn Monroe and Martha Graham.
It is staggering to contemplate how much of New York's cultural history is contained in the square feet surveyed by Astor — known to his neighbors as Birdman. And it is infuriating, though not surprising, to witness how efficiently it is wiped away. Much of the film chronicles the eviction of the last tenants, displaced by a renovation plan intended to replace their homes and workplaces with studios and offices.
The last residents moved out in 2010, and while Lost Bohemia mourns their dispossession, it also allows us to spend time in their eccentric, artistic company and to appreciate their contribution to the life of the city. Among them are Bill Cunningham, a New York Times photographer who is the subject of a marvelous recent documentary called Bill Cunningham New York, and Don Shirley, a pianist who recalls playing with Duke Ellington "downstairs," that is, in Carnegie Hall itself.
An anonymous, unseen poet who lives above Astor and leaves him eloquent phone messages observes that studios and the hall below, though commissioned by a plutocrat, "were built not on power but on love." The power of this documentary resides in that proud and fragile sentiment.
One World Film Festival: 'Lost Bohemia'
No MPAA rating. Impact Partners and This Is That. 1:17.
When: 2 and 4:30 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Central Library Farish Theater, 140 E. Main St.
Learn more: (859) 266-6073, Oneworldfilmfestival.org