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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976)

In 1953, an aspiring actor (Lenny Baker, looking like a young Jerry Lewis) moves out of his parents' (Shelley Winters, Mike Kellin) Brooklyn home and moves to Greenwich Village to experience life. Director Paul Mazursky's autobiographical comedy is a valentine to Greenwich Village in the 1950s, to his Jewish parents, to the idiosyncratic artistic characters who populated his circle. Mazursky tweaks and skewers them but he's affectionate rather than condescending or mean spirited and we're swept up in his nostalgia, too. A rich tapestry of a place and time with bold strokes. And what performances! Shelley Winters as the quintessential Jewish mother gives one of her 2 or 3 best performances. She's a force of nature, barging in where she's not wanted and hysterically unraveling at what she perceives as a breach against decency. But you can't dislike her, she may be a monster but she's a loving monster. The undervalued Ellen Greene gives the film's most complex performance, a girl who wants to break out but only plays at being the Bohemian. The unobtrusive score is by Bill Conti. With Christopher Walken as a self centered "poet", Lois Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Antonio Fargas, Lou Jacobi, Dori Brenner and a young Bill Murray.

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