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*** 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" doesn't really feature exemplary storytelling, but it's still a
striking look into a world to which many of us are not privy. That
would be the behind-the-scenes dealings in travelling carnivals. With
story credit going to co-star Robbie Robertson - member of The Band and
a real life former carny himself - director Robert Kaylor and Kaylors'
wife Phoebe, it's an amazing display of sights and sounds in this
sometimes seamy environment. Ultimately, the heaviest asset is the
incredible atmosphere that Kaylor and his crew create.
Gary Busey and Robertson are front and centre as members of this carnival troupe. Busey is a clown who sits in a dunk tank and taunts passers by. Into their lives comes a sexy teenager, Donna (Jodie Foster), who's tired of her humdrum small town existence and job as a waitress. So she joins them on the road, becoming part of their "family". Busey is very welcoming, but Robertson has his misgivings about her presence.
There's a wonderful, star studded cast here, although some of the actors inevitably end up rather under utilized. Among them are Meg Foster, Kenneth McMillan, Elisha Cook Jr. (in one of his best latter day roles), Tim Thomerson, Teddy Wilson, Bert Remsen, Craig Wasson, Robert DoQui, and Fred Ward. Bill McKinney and John Lehne are perfectly hate worthy as a shady businessman and his henchman who cause problems for our heroes. (Not content to rely on actual law enforcement, Busey, Robertson and company enact their own form of justice.) Busey is very likable, in one of his better film roles, and Foster very appealing. Robertson, of course, looks completely at home.
The production design (by William J. Cassidy) and cinematography (by Harry Stradling Jr.) are first rate, and this film also makes use of some real sideshow attractions. The tale actually gets a little twisted towards the end; coupled with some profanity and some T & A, "Carny" does earn its R rating. It also has an excellent music score by Alex North.
Overall, an interesting film worthy of discovery or re-discovery.
Eight out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An unusual low-budget film about the carnival circuit and the people
who run them.
Knowing nothing about Carnies beyond them tending to be associated with hard work, light crookedness and putting local girls up the duff and then leaving town, I can't say the film really gripped me or helped me understand them better. More story and character development would have been a big help. I wanted particularly to know more about the backgrounds of the principle trio to understand what drove them and where they thought they were going, if anywhere.
That said it's an entertaining film with a solid cast. If you like 70's era films this won't disappoint. I was unsure what to make of Donna (Jodie Foster). Her character seemed to be an odd mixture of conflicts and innocence (soon lost) wrapped around an ambition that would hurt those around her if allowed to go on. Fortunately her two mainstays Patch (Robbie Robertson) and Frankie (Gary Busey) are fairly worldly wise, particularly Patch who oversees the midway and pays off local officials to keep things uncomplicated.
Donna tries her (very green) hand in the burlesque tent with predictably bad results, no thanks to Patch. She finally teams up with Gerta (Meg Foster), she of the startlingly pale irises, in the string-pull booth. It could have gone interesting places from there but it ended unsatisfactorily to me and the carnies were portrayed as rogues who were a little too likable. Frankie had his demons but he seemed, at core, a decent guy and his relationship with Donna had real promise that was overlooked.
If you're a fan of the principle players or just think that an 18-year old Jodie would be very easy on the eye (as indeed she has always been) then it is worth a look.
This is not a great movie but it could have been one.
The casting is top notch (I am impressed by Meg Foster with her unforgettable eyes even though her screen time in the movie was insignificant). Jodie Foster is young, attractive and impulsive; so different from the later day mature Jodie Foster, who exudes confidence and intelligence.
Yet the film that starts off like a European film with the lead actor painting his face to play a clown. The sequence readies you for great moments of clowning/tragedy. This never happens. If it does it happens in isolated moments of the film.
The problem lies with the screenplay and direction. You expect cinema of a Istvan Szabo or a Marcel Carne, instead you are dished out disconnected sequences that appeal to you merely due to the rich potential of the performers. Gary Busey's and Robbie Richardson's characters strike you, not Jodie Foster's. They strike you because they added some depth and feeling to their roles. Jodie Foster does not do so in comparison. I liked her in the movie because she looked good, not because of the quality of her performance.
Just imagine if this cast and story were in the hands of Robert Altman or Marcel Carne or Istvan Szabo. We would have had a great film!
Someone needs to find the masters and put this out on DVD!!!! Great
soundtrack! Robbie was surprisingly effective as Patch. He even brought
some menace when required, if memory serves. Him and Busey riffing on
women, and their place in the Caravan, is priceless!
He and Busey had a great chemistry, and Jodie Foster looked to be having a lot of fun getting her floozy on! Scorcese was a part of the production team, it seems to me, he would certainly have the juice to supervise a DVD package.
Very worthy of release.
ANCHOR BAY, ARE YOU LISTENING?
An older teen girl has a truck-stop clinch with a carnival clown after the fair sweeps through her town; after some persuasion from her lover (and some confounding need to be with him and these show-folk), she joins up with the freakish carnies. A first-rate example of atmosphere over plot, "Carny" is full of characters running around without really doing much; you would think the carny folk would be more than just suspicious of this new kid in their midst--they show no interest in her blonde ordinariness (wouldn't they be as curious of her as she is of them? And IS she curious about their pick-up-and-go lives? The way Jodie Foster plays her, she's just a bored teenager, fettered perhaps but vacuous). I didn't care for the 'plot' as it developed (sneaking in bits of clichéd suspense) nor did I care for Robbie Robertson (glum with heavy lids) as the carnival boss. This picture doesn't add up; it's queasy and awkward, and I felt these faults were absolutely deliberate. The movie is an indifferent freak show, a ghoulish blank. All the characters have false-fronts, but we never get to see what's underneath. The filmmakers seem undecided whom to direct the movie towards without ever consummating their own feelings for the theatrical critters crawling up and down the runways. ** from ****
"Carny" is wonderful...The story, the acting, the score. Jodie Foster plays a striptease dancer. The 2 guys are fighting for her love. A great movie for fans of Jodie Foster 70's films.
Good movie they should make a Carny 2 with all the same characters as in the first movie. Jodie Foster was great in that movie, same with Gary Busy. though it was bad in one part,Jodie Foster had sex with someone else.
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