The majority of people in America are used to seeing big budget films, with multiple characters and intricate plotlines. A documentary about a New York City tour guide who is essentially the only person to appear on screen is a huge departure from that. However, when that tour guide is Tim Levitch, and the result is The Cruise, what you have is a rare slice of New York eccentricity that would be difficult to fabricate in Hollywood. Levitch is an intellectual and a philosopher who happens to ride around New York City on a double-decker bus, pointing out landmarks to tourists. While there’s plenty of footage of Levitch explaining the finer points of the Chrysler building, what I most identified with are his many dissertations on the beauty of architecture and the oppressive nature of Manhattan’s grid plan.
What really informs the rest of the film, however, is Levitch’s personification of New York City in one of the early scenes. He describes the city as a living being, one that he’s in a tumultuous romantic relationship with. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone refer to the city as a lover. In fact, it’s a sentiment that comes up repeatedly among my friends. When Levitch says he thought they were getting divorced over the winter, it was a feeling I could relate to. The things that bring Levitch down — the oppression of the Gray Line managers enforcing a dress code and the fact that he must work and make money in order to live — are the same problems we all have. At one point, he quotes Henry Miller expressing New York as hell, and calls it a “good literary description of a New York City nervous breakdown.” It seems as though Levitch is of a like mind with Miller in that moment.
Like most romantic relationships, Levitch’s rollercoaster of emotions with the city colors his attitude toward the place he lives. When he feels like the city isn’t supporting him enough, financially or emotionally, it feels like a prison. Yet he still finds joy in the Brooklyn Bridge and giving tours. The final scene of the film shows Levitch spinning in the courtyard between the Twin Towers and then looking up, something he recommends to a younger passenger on one of his tours. In this moment, he’s truly content. Any relationship has times when you need to be reminded of why you love someone or something. When you pay too much for rent or the MTA disappoints yet again, New York City can be extremely difficult to take. Though in the end, what keeps us all here must be love, because I can’t think of anything else strong enough.