Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr With Carmine Street Guitars, director Ron Mann and writer Len Blum craft an ode to the fading legend of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. This was the place where a host of artists as eclectic as Dylan, Hendrix and Lou Reed fronted movements that changed popular music forever. It was a place for dreamers, but chain fashion stores have replaced the coffee shops and the cheap rents died away decades ago. One storefront stands as a marker to that history, Carmine Street Guitars, where owner Rick Kelly has built custom guitars for decades out of wood he’s reclaimed from the demolition of old Manhattan. The wood he uses dates back to the 19th century, the bones of the city, as he likes to call his materials. Gray-haired, paunchy and unassuming in his blue jeans and T-shirt, Rick Kelly makes the ideal lead for this documentary of his life and career as an obscure-yet-famous guitar maker. The film is structured around a typical Monday through Friday work week down at Carmine Street Guitars and the film feels quite authentic when Kelly holds court on the properties of the wood he uses, the history of his tools and the inspiration for his designs. He exudes the enviable joy of a man who loves his work when describing the day he discovered the Fender Stratocaster and the trajectory that instrument gave his life. Conversely, the film takes the tenor of an old indie in the scenes where Kelly stands behind his counter, listening to a musician play licks on one of his creations. There’s a staginess to these interactions signified by the hesitant line readings offered by some of the participants. Coffee and Cigarettes sprung to mind while watching just moments before Jim Jarmusch himself enters the shop to discuss the extinction of elm trees while his guitar gets new strings. This quality doesn’t detract from the movie but makes it something of a monument to another of New York’s bygone eras. Mann and Blum use the Village’s shifting soul from historical bohemia to corporate chic to understate the tensions a man like Rick Kelly navigates to survive in present-day New York City. A “For Sale” sign on the building next door becomes a harbinger of dread for his apprentice, Cindy Hulej, a 25-year-old artist who is about to celebrate her fifth year under his tutelage. Young, blonde and fashionable, she stands in striking contrast to Kelly, but she is a part of his legacy, and she uses her knowledge of carpentry to build guitars in her own unique style. She makes their work known on social media with hashtags like #guitarporn, but the idea that she’ll grow old doing the work on Carmine Street like her boss seems unlikely. The Village has long been metastasizing into an NYU satellite campus devoid of character. Eventually that reality will affect Carmine Street Guitars. A host of guitarists stop by to talk shop with Kelly and Hulej, including Kirk Douglas of The Roots, Bill Frisell, Eleanor Friedberger, Nels Cline and Charlie Sexton. For some of the grayer hairs in the bunch, there’s a sense that Kelly’s shop has always been the unexpected end point to decades of long wanderings through the city’s streets. It provides a safe haven to talk and play, and has likely been the birthplace of countless songs. There’s a sense of gratitude among them for the space and its owner, and that’s understandable because it doesn’t take long to love Rick Kelly. He has crafted a life doing the thing he loves and has passed along his knowledge to another generation. But it is just as easy to worry about him. When talking to Sexton toward the end of the film, Kelly states that he has no accounts or retirement plan. He is a lifer and will build guitars until the day he dies. It is simply not a kind country to old men who describe themselves this way or a forgiving city that remembers the people who helped make it great. Greenwich Village will always be a place of cultural romanticism, and Carmine Street Guitars will provide a fix for anyone who maintains a fascination for New York and its place in the cultural vanguard. It is the film equivalent of Julia Wertz’s graphic novel, Tenements, Towers and Trash, a slice of someone else’s New York experience that rekindles your love for your own. If nothing else, it will make you want to learn the C, F and G chords in the hopes that you will one day earn the right to play one of Rick Kelly’s New York bones.