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At the age of twenty-nine, Elgar Enders "runs away" from home. This running away consists of buying a building in a black ghetto in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Initially his intention is to evict the black tenants and convert it into a posh flat. But Elgar is not one to be bound by yesterday's urges, and soon he has other thoughts on his mind. He's grown fond of the black tenants and particularly of Fanny, the wife of a black radical; he's maybe fallen in love with Lanie, a mulatto girl; he's lost interest in redecorating his home. Joyce, his mother has not relinquished this interest and in one of the film's most hilarious sequences gives her Master Charge card to Marge, a black tenant and appoints her decorator. Written by
I was pleasantly surprised with the complexity of "The Landlord". It was brilliantly directed. The cutting between different scenes was effortless and added depth to the storyline. There was plenty of symbolism, which is one of the things I always look for and enjoy in a film. For instance, when Elgar (Bridges) and his father are having an argument in the bathroom during a costume party, there is a quick cutaway to another man in the bathroom who has on a gun holster, which I thought was symbolic of the 'shootout' that was going on between Elgar and his father. In addition, the Enders family is constantly seen wearing white, and their home is decorated in white.
I thought the acting was top notch. Beau Bridges was very convincing as a naive, sheltered man learning to appreciate and embrace a different culture. But the movie is so much deeper than that... It dealt with people trying to break free from stereotypes, people struggling to be proud of who they are and be accepted for who they are, and some people not even knowing who they are, trying to find their niche.
I love the scene at the party that was supposedly in honor of Elgar, where more than one person tells him what it feels like to go from being an outcast to being the envy of everyone. If I remember correctly, they likened it to you having a mole in the middle of your forehead, and people are basically disgusted by it. But, then one day, that becomes the thing to have, and people begin to draw moles on their faces, but you have a real mole right there on your forehead, prominent for everyone to see, and suddenly you are "it", and your self esteem is taken to new heights. It seems like everything would be fine for you now, but I also interpreted that speech as saying that, at the time, blacks felt like they were a fad that might eventually fade out. I thought the words were very powerful, as well as the way the scene was carried out.
I don't think a film such as this could be pulled off properly now, because there is the constant threat of backlash if things aren't completely "PC", not to mention the fact that things are so different now. I think this film was made at the right time, but it still rings true 31 years later. And, thank goodness for the satisfying and realistic ending.
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