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This film doesn't really have any storyline to speak of. Basically it
is an episodic comedy-drama, set in New York in the late 60s, revolving
around three friends as they try to avoid being drafted into the Army
and sent to Vietnam, while experiencing various elements of the late
The film uses a a style very reminiscent of the French "Nouvelle Vague" films, such as hand-held cameras, on-screen captions commenting on the action and speeded-up film.
The film is probably most well-known today for marking an early appearance by Robert De Niro (here aged 24) as voyeuristic amateur film-maker Jon Rubin, and for being an early film from director Brian De Palma.
The film is, luckily, worth watching for much more than this though. It is an interesting snapshot of it's times and, although very dated, it is often quite funny. The main problem is that the film hasn't aged very well and there's no structure to it, many episodes by far outstay their welcome.
Damn amusing comedy largely centered around conversational humour. Champion script writing with some of the most amusing scenes you'll ever see. It is unfortunate that this film is so under-rated (and more often not rated at all) as it is a unique look at a group of characters, so perfectly defined by the great cast in their early years, who come up with some delightfully idiotic ideas and live out these ideas with such confidence it is really quite disturbing. John Rubin is of course the best character, and seeing Robert De Niro perform his "Cancerous elements" scene is easily one of the greatest scenes ever captured on celluloid. Most worthy of a sequel, which by chance is almost as good as its predecessor. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of all of the Brian De Palma's films I had seen their had never been a comedy. His films are usually dramatic, scary or have a statement to say. About the closest he ever came to a comedy was Bonfire of the Vanities and we all know how that turned out. But going over his extensive body of work I found an old jewel by this man, and that jewel is Greetins. I admit this being pretty much his first film I should have came across it much sooner, but it was hard to find and took me about three years to uncover. When I got it and watched I never expected to laugh, I just thought it would be another statement about the time it was made in like most of De Palma's films and that would have been OK, as I like almost all of his movies, but this was a treat. From the very first frame until the last I was in a fit of laughter and that is a huge accomplishment for a film that is forty-years old. I have never laughed at a movie from the 60's the way I did this one. When the first actor walks into the African American bar and picks a fight so he can get beat up and put out of the army was magnificent. They only comedies of that time that still hold up for me are The Andy Griffith Show, I love Lucy and other situation comedies but never a film. The rest of the movie is cool because it follows three guy who are trying to get out of the draft and are heavily involved with different parts of the 60's counter culture. Robert De Niro, is a voyeur and obsessed with art I feel he is probably the character that most resembles Brian De Palma, the character almost is De Palma. One of the other guys is obsessed with the Kennedy assassination and is trying to find out the cover up, he is also involved in the hippie movement. The third guy is just a typical normal guy thrown in with these loons and is trying to stay out of the war. He goes as far to as to act gay and be like a militant. De Niro though rises as the star of the film and outshines every one else, I like him better in this then anything else he has ever done. I love when he is forced to go to Vietnam and instead of shooting a V.C girl he has her pose for a news camera and tries to make a voyeur porn. It was hilarious. Brian De Palma himself makes a brief cameo in this as a man on the steps of the draft building who De Niro does a funny rant too. Watch this movie and see how De Palma grew to become the master he is. I will say that this movie is not for everyone as it is a little racist and sexiest but if you take it in the context that it was made then you can see they real roots of it's comedy.
This film is worth seeing just for JFK assassination recreation scene. One of the funniest individual scenes I have ever been witness to. Offbeat piece of film making from a future legend. DePalma is very satiric and DeNiro shows comedic ability that he won't display for another 25-30 years.
Brian De Palma these days isn't generally associated with comedy, but this
is from his counter culture period, when subversive put ons were his metier
(see also 'get To Know Your Rabbit'). Three hipsters (Robert De Niro, cult
figure Gerrit Graham and unknown Jonathan Warden, all good) try and dodge
the draft, and romp through a near plotless series of odd scenes involving
their private obsessions, mainly JFK's assassination and voyeurism. The mood
is somewhere between Richard Lester and Jean Luc Godard. While it's great to
see De Niro in an early comedic role, the stand out performance for me is by
Graham, who shows the chops he would use in his subsequent long and varied
career ('Demon Seed', 'Used Cars', Bud the Chud). The supporting cast also
includes the hugely underrated Allen Garfield ('The Conversation', 'The
Stunt Man') in a memorable sequence opposite De Niro.
'Greetings' is uneven, and dated in some ways, but has enough invention and genuine laughs to make it worth the rental. Now, if only I can find the sequel...
The problem with judging a work like Greetings is that it is by a
filmmaker who is just starting to work out what's inside of him, his
themes, his ideas, his sense of humor and attitudes towards society and
women. Brian De Palma would follow-up Greetings with the (for my money)
better satire Hi, Mom, which also features a 20-something Robert De
Niro (indeed, also in a similar role here, though not by much). The
reason his follow-up was better, to me, is because he had sorted out
more of what he wanted with his style; here, he is skilled at infusing
Nouvelle Vague into the film, and his voyeuristic attitude is prevalent
in a few key scenes (one of them perhaps the funniest, involving De
Niro's Jon Rubin 'directing' a woman on a bed).
What is fascinating throughout is how little De Palma shows his Hitchcock influence here; if anything, Godard is the main pulse throughout (long takes that inevitably comment upon themselves, characters reading books on camera, near political use of jump cuts and zooms). So that is one reason why it can't have everything together; as De Palma is still finding himself, and more than likely making this movie for himself (i.e. HE is the audience), it's hard for it to find what is often called 'accessibility' for a viewer like myself. I probably would've found this to be a 8/10 if I had been born thirty or forty years earlier.
The three characters here are separated very vastly, but each with their own incredible, off-beat, and often strange behavior. The friend on with the computer dates is hit or miss; the highlight here being when he has the "Dirty Movie" date, as De Palma shoots it in a mix of pre Clockwork Orange styling and as a silent film. The friend obsessed with the Kennedy assassination, to the point of drawing diagrams on a naked woman to prove his point (tongue-in-cheek of course). And then there's De Niro's character, not really in the film that much until the last twenty or so minutes. These (not to put down the talents of the other two actors; the Assassination friend had a weird quality that made him watchable) scenes are the better ones, as even here De Niro has a grasp on what De Palma thinks he's getting. But the main problem here, which was solved in most of De Palma's later movies starting with Hi, Mom onward, is consistency. There are some scenes that just don't work, that are either funny for the wrong reasons, or not funny at all.
The technical aspect of the film, in terms of being quintessentially 60's, is intriguing, but even here isn't always used to its best use. Overall, it almost makes me think of this as like one long Monty Python movie with sketches that sometimes work, but unfortunately don't. If you would want to see it out of curiosity, especially from a historical or sociological interest, I wouldn't dare tell you not to see it (the last scenes in "Vietnam" are just wacky enough). But if your a De Niro fan or De Palma fan just getting into their work, know what you're getting into here. Some may love it, some may dis-like it even more than I. For me, it served its purpose well.
Definitely an interesting commentary on the state of youth and society in the mid sixties. At times down right hilarious, this comedy does can be boring. Not for everyone. Interesting installment from Brian Depalma, the director of Carrie, his unique style indeed makes for an interesting film. Deniro's portrayal of a developing voyeur is one of the few comedic roles that I have seen him do so well. A movie worth watching for anyone interested in film making, as many techniques are quite interested.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't understand that this is supposed to be funny. Usually, I am a
sucker for films that feature offbeat characters and non-linear story
lines. I just didn't get it this time.
Maybe, it's because that I am not familiar with life in the sixties, other than what I have read. Maybe, it's because I thought that this was going to be more of a violent film with extreme black humour. The humour is sort of black, but there is little to no violence here.
De Niro is interesting to watch here and you can sense shades of his most famous character of Travis Bickle in some scenes. The scene in Vietnam works because it comes totally out of nowhere, but for the most part his character just seems goofy. I know that this kind of film was probably something that most people were not used to in the late sixties, but as more and more directors went counterculture in the 70s, this seems extremely boring by comparison and also kind of amateurish.
I know that De Palma was still a rookie filmmaker here and this was probably some kind of experiment for him. It's a noble try but not very compelling.
One more thing: Even for a sixties song, the tune played at the opening credits is probably one of the worst I have ever heard.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have just seen Greetings for the first time. My immediate reaction
was that it is SO 'Sixties. Parts of it resembling an episode of The
Monkees. Especially when a group of people are live animated in a park.
As Sixties memorabilia it represents both some of the best aspects of the zeitgeist, such as the dreaminess of a character dwelling on a woman in the street, and it's most excruciatingly embarrassing aspects. Such as the unnecessary and not at all erotic nudity thrown in just for the sake of being oh-so revolutionary. The worst of this being in the ridiculous part where the conspiracy theorist is using a naked woman as an anatomy mannequin and she is supposed to be asleep all through his writing on her and rolling her this way and that.
It is of course fascinating to see DeNero so young in this film, yet with some of his tics already formed. However, as a visual artist I found the richest part of the film to be the drawn out conversation with Richard Hamilton. The British originator of the term "Pop Art" who effectively explains in detail the rationale of some of his paintings of the period and takes the opportunity to assert that they pre-dated Blow-Up, to which they were already regarded as deriving from.
The film is pretty much without a story and it's many episodes range from the excruciatingly embarrassing to the fascinatingly dated via some good humorous elements and a bit of social history. The nutter in a book-shop whose conversation leads inexorably to the logical conclusion that he was going to be "next" is genuinely clever. Overall, however, this film would not have fore-warned me of some of the super work that De Palma would yet make. It feels amateurish. A student quality piece.
This movie is one of the best American movies in the sixties. It's
form, sharpness, concision, subtlety and great comedy make it a peak of
new-wave American cinema and show the real talent of Brian de Palma.
If the movie is political, it is not a propagandistic one. It is a real artistic work, where everything is relative, fun is everywhere, politics is ridiculed just as the lack of politics. Nothing stands to the great destructive power of the irony and of the cinema. MASH by Altman can be compared to this movie.
All this comes with a great directing skill and novelty. Hitchcock and French nouvelle vague can be an influence (they are actually cited in the movie), but de Palma is original and his merits are beyond any doubt.
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