Funny, touching, a testament to the power of words
I caught this documentary on the Sundance channel, knowing Lenny Bruce very well as being influential (I listened to one of his later recordings) though not knowing a whole lot on why he became the most controversial comic of the pre-Vietnam era. What I learned was that Lenny Bruce's story - of rising to fame as a satirist and stand-up comic after working in strip joints, and then being put down by the legal machinations of the United States government - is both hilarious and engrossing, and here and there a (necessary) downer. What the system pulled over on Lenny was a travesty, and the mere fact that (technically) the charge of swearing/indecency still stands decades later is an insult to, if any, meaning by the constitution. When Lenny does do his act in the film, one who's never heard most of his material can be drawn in, the style in which he lays his bits is extraordinary. If one had to describe this film to someone who hasn't seen it, or perhaps might not know who Lenny Bruce is (most of my friends don't, though they know his descendents like George Carlin), 'Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth' is about a terrific wordsmith who's self-esteem got crushed to oblivion & suicide by those who felt that they had the right over another person's language. It also includes some good narration by old Bobby De Niro. Grade: (strong) A
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