Lenny Baker is a young Jewish lad (based on writer/director Paul Mazurksy himself) who dreams of being an actor. The time is the early 1950s, and Baker moves from Brooklyn to Greenwhich village to make a name for himself. Every conceivable element of Beat life in the Village is present, and Baker encounters all sorts of characters (including a young Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum). He must also deal with complications in his relationship with girlfriend Ellen Greene, and his domineerin… mother (Shelly Winters).
Mazursky’s film doesn’t appear to have ever met a cliché it didn’t like, whether they be in the Village scene, or incarnated in the likes of Shelly Winters, who takes her Jewish Mama character insanely over the top in the opening scene and never looks back. On the other hand, from the elaborate dialogue on down, the film is engagingly personal, very much the work of a committed artist.
Two options here: 2.0 and mono. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the two. The music mix (said music being jazz, of course), is quite sensitive, and does a good job of presenting the music in a good light without going bombastic. There is some rear speaker activity in this department, but not a lot. There is even less when it comes to the sound effects. There is virtually nothing going on by way of surround. For the most part, the sound is clear, though there is a bit of harshness with some of the dialogue, and there is also some minor hiss. Bear in mind, however, that this is a thirty-year-old soundtrack.
Inasmuch as the sound is decent, but shows its age (unavoidably), the same can be said for the picture. The colours are strong, the flesh tones are natural, and the blacks are good. Edge enhancement is not an issue. The aspect ratio is the original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. All of this is to the good. There is some grain, however. This is to be expected, anyone expecting the film to look as blemish-free and sharp as a new release is being foolish.
Paul Mazursky and Ellen Greene are on the commentary track, but recorded separately. An exchange between the two would have been nice, but their memories are still interesting, and Mazursky’s discussion is quite personal. The other extra is the theatrical trailer. The menu is basic.
Cliched yet personal, this is not for all tastes, but the individualist nature of the film is a point in its favour.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer