Wednesday, March 12, 2014


HEAVY TRAFFIC (1973) (X) Dir. Ralph Bakshi
77 min.
This film is pure and utter nihilism. Unfettered. And it's beautiful. A handful of Bakshi's films (Fritz the Cat, Coonskin) have garnered controversy for his portrayal of racial stereotypes and Heavy Traffic is no exception. It's offensive to every race and creed, and it's bleak, hopeless and violent. Yet, naysayers of these films were only the seeing them for the exteriors, and not the internal message. Which is WE'RE ALL FUCKED.
The city of dreams, people.
Seriously, this movie uses an amazing mixture of animation, live action, and stock footage to portray a world on the brink of extinction, both macro and micro. Animated scenes containing multiple murders and stock footage scenes of bombing raids are juxtaposed with our live action protagonist playing pinball, with a deep sense of ennui.
The protagonist is Mike, a dropout, unemployed artist that lives with his domestically abusive Italian father and Jewish mother. He is depressed, a virgin, and only finds solace in the violent art he makes. To escape their fights, he wanders around the city, conversing with the local wildlife and drinking at a local bar, tended by Carole (a quick-witted, razor-tongued black woman), and patroned by Shorty, a legless bouncer, and the transsexual Snowflake (who enjoys being beaten by burly men).
Carole loses her job and moves in with Mike, much to the chagrin of Shorty. They begin a relationship but leave the flat when Mike's racist mafioso dad finds them together. Living on the street, Mike fails at selling his art, so he tries his hand at pimping Carole, with lackluster results. Meanwhile, Mike's father is taking a hit out on his son...
It's needless to go on, but all does not end well. It doesn't begin well. IT WAS NEVER WELL.
Warning: film may rupture your skull.
But surely I must digress, because the animation in this film, including the transitions and matting of live action and stock, is absolutely stunning. It's psychedelic and grimy and gorgeous. The musical score, the cinematography, and the writing are all superb. It's a fucking masterpiece of American cinema and animation and it belongs in a museum. 9/10

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