Paul Mazursky’s autobiographical comedy-drama is set in 1953. Mazursky’s stand-in is Larry Lapinsky (Lenny Baker), who has the classic smothering Jewish mother (Shelley Winters) and stoic dad (Mike Kellin). He moves out at age 22 and heads for Greenwich Village to pursue his dream of being an actor. He deals with his noncommittal girlfriend (Ellen Greene) and meets various specific types of the day: callous playwright/loverboy Christopher Walken (fans should check him out here in his first significant movie role pre-Deer Hunter), gay Antonio Fargas, perpetually suicidal Lois Smith, nurturing bohemian Dori Brenner, insecure actor Jeff Goldblum. The time and place are evoked beautifully — I would’ve liked to have lived there back then. Like Larry, the movie never loses its inherent sense of humor even when things turn bleak. The final scene, in which Larry eats an apple strudel while lingering on his Brooklyn block and listening to a street fiddler, is perfect. Sadly, six years after this was released, Lenny Baker died of cancer. He was only 37. Dori Brenner (who gives the film’s warmest performance) also died of cancer in 2000, at 54.
Archive for February 1976
A charming Italian animated feature with an acknowledged debt to Fantasia. The “presentatore” (Maurizio Micheli, standing in for animator Bruno Bozzetto) talks excitedly about his new project, which will combine animation and classical music. All puffed up with his own genius, he’s sure no one has done this before. A call comes through from California, and the presentatore learns that “someone named Prisney or something” has indeed done it before. Undaunted, he goes ahead anyway.
An evolution sequence (played against Ravel’s “Bolero”) begins in a Coke bottle and ends with a unique enactment of the dinosaurs’ extinction — it’s a prankish variation on Fantasia’s famous “Rite of Spring” sequence. Bozzetto’s own Stravinsky interpretation, “The Firebird,” imagines the Biblical serpent eating the forbidden fruit. He also does Debussy and Dvorak. But the segments you’ll remember are Vivaldi’s “Concerto in C” (a bee prepares to picnic in a field and keeps getting interrupted by an oblivious couple rolling around making love) and the stand-out piece, Sibelius’s “Valse Triste,” wherein a lonely, frightened cat explores a post-apocalypse city, remembering the people who once lived there and might have given it a home. Despite the unnecessary, slapsticky live-action scenes, this is a must for animation buffs.