Silver-haired and rakishly elegant, Mark Reay consorts with models, shoots street and runway fashion photography, and personally delivers a portrait to the office of Marc Jacobs. He hits Veselka for a late bite, editing photos on his laptop; he tells us that he scored his swank shoes for just $200.
He makes the hustle of the freelance life look like swanning right up until the moment he jabs his key into the front door of an East Village walk-up, ascends six or so flights of stairs, and emerges onto the roof that’s secretly been his home for five years. The wind whips at him as he bunks down in a sleeping bag in a tarp behind some rumbling HVAC machinery beneath the hard glitter of the city lights. “Good night,” he says, to the camera — to us. Later, he’ll address audiences directly, speaking straight into the camera with charming bluntness to announce that anyone who cared enough to pay for a ticket to see a movie about his homelessness is also obliged to put him up sometime.
So it goes in Thomas Wirthensohn’s joyous yet dispiriting portrait Homme Less, a film that transcends the niceness and pieties of most lefty docs. Unlike most of the real folks whose lives become issue-related entertainment, Reay has the chutzpah to look right at us and suggest what exactly we should do about the troubles being documented — even if it’s just to surrender a couch.
The film is an adventure, a reason to despair, a chance to hang out with a great talker, and an often beautiful portrait of this city’s promise and cruelty. If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere — but everywhere else you might at least have a bed.
Directed by Thomas Wirthensohn
Opens August 7, IFC Center