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  Next Stop, Greenwich Village Never A Good Time To Go
Year: 1976
Director: Paul Mazursky
Stars: Lenny Baker, Shelley Winters, Ellen Greene, Lois Smith, Christopher Walken, Dori Brenner, Antonio Fargas, Lou Jacobi, Mike Kellin, Michael Egan, Rashel Novikoff, John C. Becher, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Spinell, Denise Galik, Rochelle Oliver, Vincent Schiavelli
Genre: Comedy, Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Larry Lapinsky (Lenny Baker) has made up his mind: now he has graduated college, he will be moving to Greenwich Village to begin his life anew. His ambition is to be an actor, and he dreams of being as famous as his idol Marlon Brando who is currently wowing them in A Streetcar Named Desire, but there may be something holding him back. Not a lack of talent, he assuredly has the ability to act, but his mother (Shelley Winters) cannot stand to see him go and has been pleading with him not to leave home. The day he departs their Brooklyn apartment he grew up in sees her distraught with grief, which makes Larry furious, since she cannot understand he has to cut the apron strings and strike out on his own, but go he does, and new vistas open up for him...

Next Stop, Greenwich Village was blatantly an autobiographical movie for its writer and director Paul Mazursky: he had indeed been brought up in New York, moved to the Village, and started out as an actor (first in Stanley Kubrick's tiny budget feature debut Fear and Desire, then as a juvenile delinquent in The Blackboard Jungle). He would continue to dabble in acting for the rest of his career, mostly in smaller supporting roles, but after hitting big with Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice he became one of the nineteen-seventies auteurs of the American New Wave, and progressed into a selection of big hits (Harry and Tonto, An Unmarried Woman) and smaller projects labelled self-indulgences that would really solely appeal to their creator (Alex in Wonderland, Blume in Love).

This little item was relatively modest in scope by comparison, but it was clear how much it attracted him to recreate the most significant time in his life. Many New York directors like to make an autobiographical effort about their younger days - Woody Allen's Radio Days or Spike Lee's Crooklyn, for instance - and Mazursky was no exception, only he did not settle on childhood for his subject, but the passing of childhood into adulthood, in a twentysomething coming of age. The results, while still featuring some of the rougher, less sympathetic patches indicative of his work, was nevertheless one of his most accessible thanks to a gentle humour and true insight into the characters he obviously knew very well, having based them on actual people he was around at the time, 1953 in The Big Apple with all its myriad-seeming possibilities and potentials.

Though Winters skirted close as the overbearing Jewish mama, none of the people we watched were cartoons, and Mazursky painted an at times painfully convincing portrait of what it would have been like to be there and then. There may have been lapses which you would have been unlikely to see in a twenty-first century movie - making light of suicide until it's too late, the hero slapping around his girlfriend (Ellen Greene in her debut), an abortion subplot - but there's never the sense of the director sugarcoating his memories, though some were warmer than others. His cast was impressive: Christopher Walken was a womanising writer, Jeff Goldblum was a patently talented aspiring actor who we see would never get anywhere because of his overearnest attitude, Antonio Fargas as a gay friend whose life is a sham, and so forth. Each of these people were authentic because of their flaws, and Mazursky plainly felt a lot of love for them all; if this was all one-note in the main and predictable as a story, as an experience of life the way he saw it back then, it did win you over, and was a valuable record of the wiry, nervy Baker, who died tragically young. Music by Bill Conti.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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