Review: ‘Carmine Street Guitars’ doc pays folksy homage to Greenwich Village mainstay

Rick Kelly in a scene from “Carmine Street Guitars.” Credit: Sphinx Productions
Proprietor Rick Kelly in the documentary “Carmine Street Guitars.”

Composed with the same evident affection for the subjects covered in “Comic Book Confidential” and “Poetry in Motion,” Ron Mann’s “Carmine Street Guitars” is a leisurely Sunday stroll of a documentary about the cozy Greenwich Village mainstay in New York City that has served as a sanctuary for musicians.

Since starting his business in the late 1970s, proprietor Rick Kelly, (his mom, Dorothy, still handles bookkeeping and dusting duties), has earned a loyal following for hand-crafting guitars made from reclaimed wood salvaged from many of New York’s centuries-old landmarks.

While sculpting a hunk of timber provided by McSorley’s Old Ale House (established 1854) into a one-of-a-kind piece of playable art, he greets steady customers, including director Jim Jarmusch and musicians Bill Frisell, longtime Bob Dylan and Patti Smith guitarists Charlie Sexton and Lenny Kaye, and the Roots’ Kirk Douglas, several of whom serenade Kelly on his creations.

Equally charming is Kelly’s easy rapport with apprentice Cindy Hulej, no slouch herself when it comes to her wood-etching talents. She’s sort of Cyndi Lauper to his Captain Kangaroo.


As the changing neighborhood’s developers sniff at his heels, Kelly resolutely holds his ground, as does Mann, who allows this folksy slice of life to unfold unhurriedly, presenting Carmine Street Guitars — both the shop and the film — as a warmly nostalgic nod to the Village’s funky Bohemian past.


‘Carmine Street Guitars’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes


Playing: Starts May 10, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; May 17, Laemmle Glendale



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