7.6/10
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6 user 26 critic

On the Bowery (1956)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Drama | 19 July 1962 (Hungary)
At the time of this film, the Bowery was a neighborhood in New York City populated largely by the down and out, and largely by transients. Those that can work generally can only find short ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins. See more awards »
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Storyline

At the time of this film, the Bowery was a neighborhood in New York City populated largely by the down and out, and largely by transients. Those that can work generally can only find short term employment on a day to day basis, their daily earnings which primarily go into booze. Those that can't or won't work generally sponge off whoever they can, especially for that next drink. New to the neighborhood is Ray, who most recently had been working the rails in New Jersey. He is one of those who can and still does work, but like the others spends what little money he has on booze, which means he usually sleeps on the streets in a drunken stupor. The only person he would probably consider a friend in the neighborhood is the elderly Gorman, who in turn takes advantage of his new friend at whatever opportunity. When he's sober, Ray understands that alcohol is ruining his life, and as such states that he will try to stop drinking. The questions become whether Ray has either the will or the ... Written by Huggo

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Genres:

Documentary | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

19 July 1962 (Hungary)  »

Also Known As:

Auf der Bowery  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$13,236 (USA) (19 September 2010)

Gross:

$13,236 (USA) (19 September 2010)
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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Featured in Maltin on Movies: Project X (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Road Less Traveled
14 March 2013 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

As I read the admiring comments about this movie, I find myself confused. Yes, this is an excellent documentary -- and the question of whether some scenes may have been staged bothers me less than it does another commenter. Yet, good as it is, this sort of documentary did not spring newborn from the mind of Lionel Rogosian, like Athena from Zeus' brow. There are clear antecedents, like the photography of Walker Evans and even movies like Boris Kaufman's LES HALLES CENTRALES (1927).

In many ways it is a remake of the 1941 Passing Parade short THIS IS THE BOWERY, without the voice over commentary. Instead, it reserves its commentary to its cinematic choices: the editing that cuts faster and faster as arguments rage and the uncredited photographer, who carefully composed and key lit portrait shots that scream "This is a human being", Film is a medium that can lie or tell the truth twenty-four times a second, but which lies or truths the film maker chooses to tell.... that's the real point.

Having thus demonstrated my learnedness and balance as a film critic, let me turn again and note that such issues are irrelevant. A movie is made for an audience, and how would this movie strike its audience, who probably could not recall having ever seen anything like it before? Like a thunderbolt. This sort of cinema vérité film making was something usually seen in post-war Italian movies where the producer couldn't afford a studio. To see it applied to reality in the United States was devastating and changed documentary film-making permanently. At least, until the next new and greatest thing came along.


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