Set in Brooklyn during the 1950s against a backdrop of union corruption and violence. A prostitute falls in love with one of her customers. Also a disturbed man discovers that he is ...
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Set in Brooklyn during the 1950s against a backdrop of union corruption and violence. A prostitute falls in love with one of her customers. Also a disturbed man discovers that he is homosexual. Written by
Mark Logan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Did you ever notice that if you were to show a film to after dinner friends, all too often what you bring out is a work that might not make a list of your personal top ten favorite movies? This is one of those films. Very postwar early 50's, but a 1950's Donna Reed would have been lost in. It truly is the opposite of Pleasantville.
Hubert Selby's dark vision of the common man is woven around several characters in a Brooklyn neighborhood. A factory worker called Big Joe is played by Burt Young. Instinctively brutal yet pathetically naive, he wanders through his Brooklyn neighborhood functioning at the most elemental level reinforced only by an inherited value system to which he is single-mindedly loyal. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a whore whose timeline for thoughts of her future stretches out only several hours. She gets by in life rolling drunks whose tolerance for liquor is less than hers, or giving sex to those who outlast her. A soldier soon to be shipped out takes her to Manhattan for his last few stateside days and falls in love with her. Tralala (Leigh's character) recognizes the attendant lust but has no clue about the implications of his love. As she sees him off, the Lieutenant hands her an envelope. Tra's face lights up as her vision of the order in life (she gives him sex, he has a good time, he gives her money) seems to have been reaffirmed. When the envelope turns out to contain a lengthy love letter she doesn't become angry or disappointed, just confused.
In addition to Leigh and Young, powerful performances are turned in by Jerry Orbach (the corrupt union boss), Stephen Lang (the closet homosexual strike-line foreman), Stephen Baldwin (a street punk), Ricki Lake (Big Joe's very pregnant daughter), and Alexis Arquette (the teen-age transvestite).
The soundtrack is excellent and unobtrusive and Uli Edel's direction insightful. You need a strong stomach to watch it and quite a bit of dedication to find it, but it's well worth the effort.
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