In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb concrete poster

Dragged Across Concrete

It’s difficult to ignore the craftsmanship and performances in Dragged Across Concrete simply because you don’t like some of its darker themes or feel like…

Thumb sunset poster

Sunset

Nemes' suggestive, impressionistic approach takes some getting used to, but Sunset is worth the extra effort.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives

Reviews

Lenny Bruce Without Tears

Lenny Bruce Without Tears Movie Review
  |  

stomping dance. He falls to the floor, plays a piano with his feet and seems terribly cornered: He can't make sense, so he'll make himself a clown.

There are other scenes in which he's more alert and quicker. but even in them, he's not very funny. Occasionally a fugitive laugh echoed through the mostly empty theater where I saw the movie. But for the most part, the audience (presumably Lenny Bruce fans, sat in silence. There was the classic jazzmusician bit, in which Lenny plays a soloist whose instrument is a crackling dollar bill. There was the shaggydog story of the genie who takes over a Rush Street deli.

Advertisement

But there also were the bits in which Lenny was trying to wound, to probe, and some of them just didn't work after the passage of years. His long, rambling, unfocused conversation between the pilot and copilot of a plane that's just been bombed, for example, is embarrassing, not funny. That he could have allowed this material in his act speaks sadly for his uncertain taste.

But Lenny Bruce was in many ways a mirror for American society in the 1960s. What he represented depended on who you were and where you stood. The old television footage shows him on the Steve Allen program (in pretty good shape), in interview situations not always as desperate as the Hentoff session, and it also shows outdated interviews with such as Malcolm Muggeridge, Kenneth Tynan and Mort Sahl commenting on his work.

It might have been interesting to discover what such authorities think now, in the 1970s, about Bruce. But this old footage is illuminating in its own curious way. The New York radio personality Jean Shepherd, for example, comes over as surprisingly dense in his assessment of Bruce (who encouraged, if I got him right, the concentration camp mentality, because by acting the way he did, he invited reactionary reprisals that could bring down society—pretty heavy stuff for a nightclub comic).

Sahl is rational and fair. Tynan unburdens himself of a few generalities of terrific lack of interest, and Muggeridge fires away at passing trends, hitting one on occasion. The movie is held together by a series of cliche narrations and some melancholy jazz. At the end, there's Lenny Bruce's nude, overdosed body and then a maudlin song of the sort all performers secretly like in their narcissistic moods, about how they're all alone. Was he ever.

Popular Blog Posts

The Most Unforgettable Episodes of The Twilight Zone

Jessica Ritchey on the episodes of The Twilight Zone that she thinks about the most.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

S. Craig Zahler on Dragged Across Concrete, Casting Mel Gibson, His Writing Process and More

An interview with writer/director S. Craig Zahler about his new film, Dragged Across Concrete.

A Reappraisal of Oliver Stone's "Alexander: The Ultimate Cut"

On the eve of its 10th anniversary, a new version of Oliver Stone's Alexander on Blu-ray demands a reappraisal.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus