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I have been trying to see 'Carny' for quite some time, and I finally stumbled across an old video tape of it. I don't know if it is now available on DVD, but if not, it should be. It was released at the beginning of the 1980s but is very much a 1970s movie, and fans of that decade will appreciate it. It's very low key and character driven, and nothing all that much happens, but the acting is strong from the three leads - Gary Busey, who has been wasted in bad movies for many years, Jodie Foster in the transitional period from child to adult star, and the biggest surprise of all Robbie Robertson, guitarist and main songwriter with legendary rock'n'rollers The Band. On top of that the supporting cast features an incredible array of character actors that's hard to beat - Elisha Cook Jr, Tim Thomerson, Kenneth McMillan, Meg Foster, Tim Thomerson, Bill McKinney, Bert Remsen, Fred Ward, Woodrow Parfrey and Craig Wasson, the star of Brian De Palma's 'Body Double', just to name the most obvious ones. 'Carny' is an overlooked gem, and deserves some more attention. I really enjoyed it.
This may not be a familiar title to many, but for me, "Carny" marks a major
turning point in the career of Jodie Foster.
In "Carny", she plays a regular young woman who is lured by the excitement of the midway into becoming one of the regular carnival members or, as the title calls them, a carny.
This is basically a story about carnival life, the nomadic existance of the carnies and the eventual maturing of Foster's character by this new way of life. Watching her adjustments, both easy and difficult, make it easy to see why she received more difficult roles after this.
Robbie Robertson, leader of The Band, plays a fellow carny and love interest for Foster. He is all cool assurance and strong emotional center, both of which are things Foster's character is looking for. It's a wonder Robertson hasn't been in more movies since.
Gary Busey, in a performance that is both humorous and borderline psychotic, plays a dunk tank clown that forever taunts patrons, both in and out of the cage. He is also involved with Foster, and finds himself at odds with Robertson over her attentions.
If there's one problem with this film it's that it is too brief. More likely than not a filming decision but see it yourself and see if you don't agree.
Now, "Carny" is a movie that DESERVES a sequel.
Hopefully a cult-classic by now, this '80 beautiful little gem passes
muster. Robbie Robertson (who I think produced it) gives a fathomable,
realistic performance for a GREAT MUSICIAN, Jodi Foster is wonderful as
usual (the main character), and Gary Busey, a couple of years after THE
BUDDY HOLLY STORY wipes the floor of the sideshow. A fascinating
delving-into slice of "somebody's life" on the road with great
supporting characters. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = Gary Busey.
Little-known then, it courses the veins without trapping you into bog-ville for a small flick. Find this one for sure and you won't be disappointed. A jewel!
This is one of the only films in existence that truly depicts the Carny
as he/she was during the 50's and 60's. Why it has not made it to DVD
is a real mystery.
Gary Busey and a young Jodie Foster are the mainstays of this film. Foster is beginning to show the talent that will shine in later films.
Part coming-of-age chronicle, part road movie, Carny is memorable for Jodie Foster's sexy, intelligent heroine and the pivotal influence of costar, co writer, and producer Robbie Robertson. Robertson is Patch, a carny veteran whose de facto partner is the leering, cruel Frankie (Gary Busey), an abusive clown, and the film lingers on the tawdry and menacing world behind the carny's garish public spaces. When the young, self-confident Donna (Foster) shows up and joins the troupe, the bonds between Patch and Frankie are strained. Donna's walk on the wild side brings her in intimate, sometimes dangerous proximity to the freaks and lowlifes that populate this world, which the writers and director Robert Kaylor savor for its atmosphere of outsider surrealism.
Foster acquits herself wonderfully, making this a revealing step between the prematurely hardened nymphet of Taxi Driver and the actress's first truly adult roles, soon to follow. Busey and Robertson fare less well, their work long on mannerism but ultimately cryptic to a fault. Like the movie itself, they transmit a cynicism that seems hollow without more real insight into how they came to inhabit this netherworld, and why they can't escape it. B-Sutton
If this didn't feature Gary Busey or Jodie Foster in it then this could easily be classed as an avant garde film. There is virtually no plot, just a cascade of freaks, fights and sex scenes. I'm not sure if it's any good - it seems unsure whether it wants to be arty or straight forward - but it's certainly interesting. Worth a look.
I saw this in the theater in winter/spring on 1980 -- haven't seen it
since (geez, 25 years!) until these showings on the Canadian movie
station. a lot more risqué than i remembered it!
it's sure captivating,engrossing, hypnotic, alluring, inviting. jodie's in her young hottie period, and robbie's the eye candy for the girls. he's sort of playing a sequel to The Last Waltz's "it's a god-damn impossible way of life." busey's fabulously enraged and possessed -- pre-wacko period. the music and soundtrack is superb. and GREAT casting. Fred Ward's a great surprise! never seen him give a bad performance.
seems like the most real circus movie i've even. i remember these traveling ferris-wheel freak-show ball-toss circus from my childhood, and it looks exactly as i remember it. (also, Movie Connection! this real traveling midwestern circus is captured briefly in Festival Express, a documentary about a 1970 train trip across Canada with Janis Joplin as Jodie Foster, Rick Danko as Gary Busey, and Robbie Robertson in his other role as a band-leader! :-) i'm certainly not bothered by the "lack of a plot" or whatever people seem to complain about -- a lot of my favorite art is not plot driven. say, Catcher in The Rye, for another young runaway story.
Pull a string! Enjoy the ride!
Frankie (Gary Busey) and Patch (Robbie Robertson of The Band) are two carnival hustlers traveling from town to town in the South. In one spot Frankie picks up Donna (Jodie Foster), an 18-year old who literally runs away with the circus. Naturally, things tense up between Frankie and Patch as Donna tries to learn the carny lifestyle. Man, back in the day one could make a movie about the life of carnival workers and it didn't have to be profound or condescending. CARNY just tells it like it is, showcasing the carnival folk and their life. What is so interesting about the film (outside of Busey's maniac performance) is how Robert Kaylor deviates from expectations. One would expect Busey and Robertson to fight over who gets the girl but they don't. Instead, they act normal as Foster is the one who gets emotional over it. The supporting cast is incredible and features Tim Thomerson, Kenneth McMillan, Elisha Cook, Jr., Meg Foster and Teddy Wilson.
This is a really good entertaining movie. This is a dark comedy/drama that looks great on the screen. Not the average fare. Great cast with good acting and direction. Pretty bizarre and a good role for Jodie Foster. A real sleeper worth viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A real unsung movie from the early 80s. Jodie Foster literally runs away and joins the carnival where she hooks up with smooth Robbie Robertson and his crony...carny clown Gary Busey. They're both womanizing cads who nonetheless give Foster an education she may very well not want. CARNY is a depressing, enthralling, and extremely well-made film. Director Robert Kaylor infuses the film with a lot of melancholy touches...from the desperate fights with local politicos to the desperate lives the carnies lead. The story is perhaps a bit too depressing, but it is still great movie making. Meg Foster (creepy eyes and all) appears as one of the carnival barkers. The great Bert Remsen and Elisha Cook are in it too as is Craig Wasson in an early role as a jock who gets his comeuppance. Whatever happened to Robert Kaylor?
Carny is an interesting low-key film. It doesn't really have much of a
plot. It works far more on atmosphere. The story is about a
direction-less teenage girl (Jodie Foster) who runs away with the
carnival after she meets a clown there. This leads to some friction
between the manager and the clown; while later the carnies have to deal
with some vicious local officials. As I say, it's not really much of a
story and in order to appreciate Carny you need to find something in
the feel of the movie.
I guess you could describe the set-up as a love triangle but only to a certain extent, as there really isn't a lot of emotion invested in the romantic side of the story; at the same time, there is a thriller element introduced towards the end and while that was quite good fun, it doesn't really fit all that well and could easily have been omitted. But as I say, the film still makes a mark and that is probably a result of the gritty recreation of carnival life and the good performances underpinning it. Best of the actors is Gary Busey who steals the show in his role as the abusive clown; moreover, the film begins very memorably with close-ups of him applying his clown make-up like it was war paint. In a sense it is, as he is extremely confrontational and goads his audience into throwing balls at him in sheer anger. In fact, the film depicts the carnies in general as primarily fuelled by a desire to fleece whoever enters their lair as they travel from town to town.
Carny is an interesting character-driven mood piece. It definitely falls into the cult movie side of the spectrum, as its unusual setting and dynamics will always mean it'll not appeal to everyone but will definitely connect with quite a few who are lured in to sample its wares.
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