The Moving Finger (1963)
A rare beatnik artifact of the early 1960s, one of only a few such films made before the hippies took over Hollywood. Low budget and in b&w, it's set in Greenwich Village, with what seems like a mostly improvised script. It begins as a late film noir crime tale involving a bank robbery where only one of a group of thieves escapes with his life, as well as $90,000 in loot. Injured and on the run, he hides in a local tour bus and is soon taken in by a group of bohemians who shoot him full of morphine to ease his pain and let him sleep it off on a mattress. Mason is the head beatnik. There's also the owner of both an upstairs coffeehouse and garret, where these beatniks hang out. They, in turn, bring the tourist trade in. Although the robbery is supposed to be the main focus of the plot, it quickly turns into more of a character study featuring these rebellious bon vivants and their odd lifestyle, which includes smoking and selling dope, mooching at art galleries, long conversations about all sorts of things and a beat shindig, shot Cinema Verite style in the director's actual apartment. Along the way, they do things like shower together at the home of an heiress and mostly plot ways to get the bank heist money away from Mason, who's too clean-cut to be one of them, but wins us over with his naturally arrogant charisma. The whole thing climaxes at the Feast of San Gennaro, in a typically documentary style conclusion.- Written by Richard Santoro
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