Now, though, some booksellers who appear in the film are annoyed at Rosette. Alan Eisenberg was a W. 4th fixture for nearly a decade. Today he runs Last Exit Books, in Park Slope.
"I've never gotten to see the film," he admits. "Still, I'm not particularly pleased... 'Cause unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, I don't think I ever...signed a release. And I just resent someone doing all this shit and never approaching me."
He even offered to contribute to a legal fund when James Curran, another vendor in the movie, started talking about hiring a lawyer.
"I'll tell you the truth," says Curran, who's since moved upstate and currently runs Ithaca Books, "when he was doing this movie, I thought he was doing some sort of joke home movies. For himself."
Curran's none too happy that some of Rosette's "home movies" became public.
"As far as a documentary, as far as who was even on the block, there was a tremendous amount of inaccuracy. It shocks me when Jason claims to even know anything about the Book Wars, because we were at the meetings and we know intimately about the Book Wars... To claim that he was involved in that is astounding."
Paul Rickert, who sells books through rarebookroom.com, agrees. "The real Book Wars were raging while Jason was still in film school, before he fell onto 4th St. with his fake book stand and his cameras and his sidekick Rick, who the film is really about. I don't condemn him for being a latecomer, that's fine. But the goddamn Book Wars, the confrontations on the street with the 6th and 9th Precincts, the daily tete-a-tete with the president of NYU out in front of the Bobst Library, the sneaky, nocturnal confiscations and arrests, the court cases that [bookseller] Donald Davis fought and won, the giant planters on the NYU sidewalks to keep us from setting up?all that shit happened over the course of four years and ended about a year before Jason even set up his very occasional stand."
Rickert called the film "fiction," and I asked him what he meant by that.
"The fiction," he said, "ranges from his claim he was down and out and needed to sell his books, to mentions of Giuliani's 'quality of life' campaign, when Giuliani had no direct impact whatsoever on downtown bookselling. Which would be fine if it did not claim to be documentary. He gets loose with facts, gives people nicknames they never had, gets the age hierarchy all wrong, doesn't know who the real players are, misses the whole thing chasing some guy in a raccoon hat with a baseball bat."
"It's not a straightforward documentary," Rosette responds. "It's more of a portrait. An impression. That's why people might disagree about its accuracy. I wanted to get the feeling of the scene. There's a dream sequence in there, which is not really verite documentary. I was just riffing for a while."
"Everybody signed a release," he contends. "A couple people gave their consent on camera when I didn't have a release available. Some people signed a handwritten release. But I'd say a great majority signed preprepared releases."
Rosette also says he's edited the film in response to the booksellers' concerns, trimming some scenes and adding others to make people look better. "I don't know what else to do. I felt like I was trying."
Paul Rickert doesn't seem to buy it. "Me, I marvel at the immensity of an opportunity carelessly lost."