Sunday, June 20, 2010

American Pop
I’d wanted to see this for nearly 30 years and thought it was not bad. The critics didn’t like it which I can somewhat understand; some of the gimmicks may not work but I thought the animation (rotoscoped) good and the story interesting. My favourite characters and periods of course are Zalmie’s and Benny’s (circa 1900-early 1950s). Given the subcultures Ralph Bakshi is from, one shouldn’t be surprised to see the mainstream late ’50s (which at the time he made this had been bowdlerised and marketed to death as the Fifties: ‘Happy Days’, Grease etc.) almost completely overlooked; instead he’s interested in further romanticising beatniks (in popular fiction La Bohème is recycled again and again... I found Tony annoying but then again I would). I give him credit for showing hippie etc. squalor for what it was. Like I imagine audiences were when this was new, I was nonplussed by the song choice towards the end but he explains it wasn’t his idea.

P.S. I also recently heard a 1969 recording of one of my faves, Benny Goodman, and a big band covering ‘Aquarius’ and thought it worked. Whatever cultural baggage it might have, a good song is a good song and works across genres. (I’ve heard one of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé singing Soundgarden’s ‘Black or Sun’ and that worked.) The middle part sounds like he’s returning to his legendary solo in ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’; his playing relatively late in his life was as crisp as it was in the ’30s and ’40s.

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