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Insightful "Landlord"
rosscinema1 December 2003
After 33 years things have certainly changed but this film still touches on issues that were very controversial back then and even now some of the events that take place are subject to debate. This story is about a young white entrepreneur named Elgar Enders (Beau Bridges) and he buys a New York tenement in a ghetto with plans on having the tenants move out so he can renovate it into his own place to live. He moves in and meets Marge (Pearl Bailey) who tells him about the people that live there and he finds out that many of the tenants owe back rent for several months. Elgar also meets Franny (Diana Sands) and they both seem to like each other but she is in love with Copee (Louis Gossett Jr.) who doesn't like Elgar and is always threatening him. Elgar gets a lot of flack from his parents and his mother Joyce (Lee Grant) who doesn't understand him says she will help him with new curtains. Elgar meets a light skinned black woman named Lanie (Marki Bey) and he falls in love and wants to marry her but Franny shows up at his door one day and tells him that she is pregnant with his child.

This film was directed by the great Hal Ashby who makes his directorial debut after spending many years working as an editor. Ashby had worked on some of Norman Jewison's films and the two had become good friends. Jewison wanted to help Ashby on his first film and he was one of the producers. The script is sharply written and each character is very well detailed so that by the end of the film the viewer has a good understanding of each of them. The script does tackle racism and its look at on both perspectives of whites and blacks. Ashby uses colors to make points like the all white house and white clothing that the Enders have while the run down tenement that is occupied by mainly black residents has mainly gray tones with some of the interior shots having red. Along with the sharp script and direction this film has several very good performances in it. Lee Grant picked up an Oscar Nomination for her funny role as Bridges mother and the scene with her and Pearl Bailey is a classic. Bailey was making a rare film appearance and she would only appear in one more film until her death. Arguably the best performance comes from Sands. She shows so many layers to her character Franny and if a role ever deserved an Oscar Nomination it was this one. She's terrific here and sadly she would pass away from cancer only 4 years later. Bridges was still a very young actor when he was cast and even though he hadn't yet developed into the fine actor that he is today his performance is still sincere. Several up and coming actors appear in small roles like Susan Anspach, Robert Klein, Gloria Hendry, Trish Van Devere and Hector Elizondo. After all the time that has passed this film still comes across as poignant and pertinent.
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gisele2212 November 2001
I was pleasantly surprised with the complexity of "The Landlord". It was brilliantly directed. The cutting between different scenes was effortless and added depth to the storyline. There was plenty of symbolism, which is one of the things I always look for and enjoy in a film. For instance, when Elgar (Bridges) and his father are having an argument in the bathroom during a costume party, there is a quick cutaway to another man in the bathroom who has on a gun holster, which I thought was symbolic of the 'shootout' that was going on between Elgar and his father. In addition, the Enders family is constantly seen wearing white, and their home is decorated in white.

I thought the acting was top notch. Beau Bridges was very convincing as a naive, sheltered man learning to appreciate and embrace a different culture. But the movie is so much deeper than that... It dealt with people trying to break free from stereotypes, people struggling to be proud of who they are and be accepted for who they are, and some people not even knowing who they are, trying to find their niche.

I love the scene at the party that was supposedly in honor of Elgar, where more than one person tells him what it feels like to go from being an outcast to being the envy of everyone. If I remember correctly, they likened it to you having a mole in the middle of your forehead, and people are basically disgusted by it. But, then one day, that becomes the thing to have, and people begin to draw moles on their faces, but you have a real mole right there on your forehead, prominent for everyone to see, and suddenly you are "it", and your self esteem is taken to new heights. It seems like everything would be fine for you now, but I also interpreted that speech as saying that, at the time, blacks felt like they were a fad that might eventually fade out. I thought the words were very powerful, as well as the way the scene was carried out.

I don't think a film such as this could be pulled off properly now, because there is the constant threat of backlash if things aren't completely "PC", not to mention the fact that things are so different now. I think this film was made at the right time, but it still rings true 31 years later. And, thank goodness for the satisfying and realistic ending.
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witty and with enough emotional depth and intelligence to carry the subject matter; good debut for Ashby
Quinoa198425 September 2007
As one of the scruffy underdog filmmakers of the 1970s- who's career unfortunately faltered in the 80s before his untimely death at 59- Hal Ashby was good at taking a set of characters and a particular idea or theme and getting under the surface just enough to make a mark, while also keeping it an oddly entertaining and accessible as a picture for the art houses. Also, it shows Ashby coming out of his cocoon of editing jobs (he even won an Oscar, for Jewison's In the Heat of the Night) by giving the Landlord a very particular rhythm. Many times he'll just let a scene play out, giving the actors the freedom to work with the script their way, and then other times he'll implement montage- or just a subliminal cut-away (or not so subliminal, as Lee Grant envisions an African tribe going to the Park Slope building, and a whole pack of black babies upon hearing about a little 'accident' her step-son caused late in the film).

I was really struck by how he uses experimentation for equal uses of humor, abstraction, and to just feel out the mood of the character(s) in the scene. Like when Brides runs to meet with Lanie at her school, and it's inter-cut with images from Fanny at her apartment, and Lanie, and a couple of other things. It can be called 'European'- and Ashby was an admitted fan of Godard's- but it feels unique to the sensibility of the production and the 'radical' feeling of the period. Meanwhile, Ashby has the best photography back up a first-time director could ask for: Gordon Willis and Michael Chapman, who give the film a look sometimes of lightness, especially when Elgar is at the family home and the walls are all a bland white, or seem to be; then other times they light it darker, like in a more intimate setting like Elgar and Lanie out by the beach at night, or just when at the Park Slope apartment. A scene especially with Elgar and Fanny is effective, not simply because she actually comments on how the red light makes her look a certain way- it's the timing of the actors, the awkward but strong sexual tension, and the red light, and the soft soul music coming up, that makes it one of the best scenes Ashby's ever filmed, thanks to the right team.

If the style verges on being a little "dated" here and there, like in the opening minutes as Elgar talks to the camera and says what he intends to do with the tenement, or those extreme close-ups of Elgar kissing with Lanie (which are quite striking on their own), its attitude towards the pure human problems of race haven't diminished that much. I liked seeing Bridges, who is spot-on as the total naive future yuppie who's heart is in the right place but confused how to really go about it as the new landlord, interact with the other apartment dwellers, their 'welcoming' by chasing him away with a flowered pot in his hands, or at the party when after getting him good and drunk tell him what it's really all about in first-person takes. And most of all it's funny and challenging to see, especially during a tense period around 1969 when it was filmed, how essential decency on either side of the race coin could get complicated by love and lust, of the rich family understandably not understanding how Elgar could go through this- not to mention the eventual 'mixed' dating and the pregnancy- and at the same time the tenees never totally knowing why, aside from foolish design ambitions, wanted to run the place to start with.

The best laughs end up coming from the awkward moments, and the obvious ones, as the subtle moments are meant to be more quiet and the 'big' laughs to come from the interaction of not just in terms of race but class; watch as everyone in the building uses the drapes from Joyce (Lee Grant in a well deserved Oscar nom performance) as clothes and head-dressing, or when Joyce has some pot liquor with Marge, who knows her better than her own family probably does. And who can resist the NAACP joke? Or a throwaway joke about dressing up as a historical figure for a costume ball? Ashby and his writers (both screenwriter and novelist were African-Americans) know not to slam every point home either, which uplifts the comedy to an honest playing field, which means that when a scene like the quasi-climax when Copee finds out about the pregnancy and flips out with an ax at Elgar it's not really all that jokey, when it easily could've been played as such for an exploitation effect. Only the very ending, which feels complicated by a sort of need to tidy things up with Elgar, Janie and the baby, feels sort of forced (not helped by the end song, not too ironic, called God Bless the Children).

But as it stands, the Landlord is provocative fun, if that makes sense, as it works as cool satire, led by sure-fire performances (Bridges has rarely been this good at being true to a mostly unsympathetic character), and it points the way for a career that the director would have where oddball slices of life wouldn't mean there wasn't larger points being made. It's one of the best bets as an obscure find a film-buff can have from 1970.
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"Black is something new"
Steffi_P15 January 2011
Movies that deal with race have often been awkward things. One of the biggest problems is they tend to be horribly patronising in tone, many of them looking essentially at how white people can help black people. Most of them were of course written by someone white, which while it doesn't necessarily make it ill-informed, it doesn't tend to help either. The Landlord is one of the few from this era that is based on source material by a black writer (novelist Kristin Hunter). Hunter's novel was adapted by Bill Gunn, who is also black. Of all the pictures I have seen dealing with race in America, it is by far the most confrontational, and really the only of this period that really challenges white social supremacy as well as overt racism.

The late 60s and early 70s was really the age of the odd-looking movie, especially with all the new, young directors that were cropping up. The Landlord was the debut of Hal Ashby, a former editor who had recently won an Oscar for his very fine job on another race-related movie, In the Heat of the Night. Ashby has a somewhat blunt approach, and like most young directors seems to be trying to make his mark with lots of unusual but ultimately pointless camera angles and extremely obvious symbolism. One thing that is very striking is how the scenes at the Enders family home are very white and the scenes at the flat block are very black. This is not done so much with set and costume design, but with lighting, strip-light brightness for the former and gloomy half-light for the latter. In fact the movie might as well be in monochrome for all the actual colour tone there is in it. The black/white metaphor of this is a little heavy-handed but at least it also serves the purpose of highlighting the stark difference in quality of life. What is probably best about Ashby's method here is the distance he puts between camera and subject, often putting a bit of scenery in between us and the action, making us feel like snooping witnesses. He will then suddenly take us by surprise with a close-up as a character delivers some key line of dialogue.

In line with Mr Ashby having been an editor, The Landlord is very much an editor's movie. This was also the age of weird editing pattern, and there is a lot of cutting back-and-forth, mixing various scenes together. Sometimes this is rather effective (for example the powerful montage of schoolchildren towards the end, or the sight-gag inserts of what Lee Grant is imagining when she finds out she will have a black grandchild), but mostly it is just a little distracting, and because it is so mechanical it threatens to alienate the audience from the material. However, shining through the rather ostentatious style are some very fine acting performances (especially from Bridges, Grant and Diana Sands), notable for their realism in spite of the occasionally bizarre situations they are in. And what's more, in amongst this choppy editing is a story which is at turns comical, thought-provoking and gently poignant, which alongside its hard-hitting stance ultimately carries a message of hope and humanity.
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How Is This Film So Ignored?!
tedpaul_9924 September 2007
Recently watched Hal Ashby's directorial debut, "The Landlord" at Manhattan's Film Forum. A complete revelation. How has it happened that this film is not as known as others from the same period? It is easily among the top films of the Hollywood renaissance of the '70s. Its take on racism is as fresh and complex as it was in 1970. In fact, one other reviewer is dead wrong about the film having no intrinsic style. It is a film loaded with style. (And, if I may add, if this reviewer thinks that all films aren't made in the editing room than you're sadly mistaken.) The film is as complicated, multi-layered, messy and ultimately indefinable as the problem of racism itself. There is no way to honestly treat this subject by making a neat little package film. We've been peeling this onion for hundreds of years and we'll be peeling it for hundreds more. Racism is as deeply ingrained in our society as our love of money and power. This film is only a "chore to sit through" if you have an aversion to fantastic writing, unbelievably great characters, amazing cinematography, brilliant editing and, yes, a complexity born of its subject. A film for the ages. Now if only the ages will catch up.
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Loved It!
anapana8324 February 2006
It was a great movie. I'm only 22 yrs old and just saw it for the first time only recently. It is a great movie that is able to drive several points home--consisting of racial prejudice, the view of African-American lifestyle at that point in time, and even the social snobbery that can occur in the upper-class. What is so wonderful about it however is the fact that it showcases these issues with such a wonderful quick sense of humor that one minute you might be in silence from a profound piece of dialogue or suspended moment and then the next scene will quickly have you laughing. Beau was great and so was EVERYONE else, especially Lee Grant.
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Beau Bridges Best!
shepardjessica13 July 2004
Certainly one of the Top 10 films of 1970, this ingenious comedy directed by Hal Ashby has never gotten the recognition it so deserves. Beau Bridges in this and Gaily, Gaily showed what a wonderful young actor he was, every bit as good as his brother, but never made that Star leap. Lee Grant (one of the best) is coy and cunning and wonderful as Bridges' mother and Diana Sands is heartbreaking, with excellent work from Lou Gossett and Pearl Bailey.

Great music and a topical plot, you can't help but get involved with this rich young man's "plight". One of Ashby's better films. A high 8 out of 10. Best performance = Lee Grant.
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Culture Clash
Lechuguilla23 April 2016
Our hero here is Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders (Beau Bridges), age 29, a White, rich, and very naïve man who, much to the disgust of his hateful bourgeoisie family, cheerily buys a rundown urban tenement building, filled with Black, poor, and very sophisticated adults and street-wise kids. Elgar thus sets himself up to be caught in the middle of an inevitable culture clash.

Director Hal Ashby creates a cinematic social commentary suited to the late 1960s and early 70s that is both comedic and thoughtful. Elgar's tenement dwellers wrestle with serious issues, like how to pay the rent. Elgar's snobbish mother worries about what Elgar wears to an elitist banquet. The plot doesn't "flow" in a traditional way; instead, it feels "jerky"; long scenes are followed by very short scenes, followed again by long scenes, and so on.

This change in rhythm, brought about by cross-cutting, amplifies ironic contrasts between these two social classes. The resulting editing is satisfying in that the comedy takes the edge off of the anger attendant to the more serious subtext. This film style works well until the final twenty minutes when the plot becomes too heavy handed and alarming. The bow and arrow scene in the middle is okay, but the fearful ax scene toward the end, sans humor, is not okay because it disrupts tonal balance.

Ashby also wanted the cinematography to be darker in the tenement scenes than in Elgar's aristocratic family segments. The result is cinematography so dark in ghetto interior scenes I could sometimes not distinguish people from furniture.

Casting and acting are quite acceptable. The standout performance is Diana Sands as Fanny, "Miss Sepia of 1957". And then there's wonderful Pearl Baily; I never realized she had been that young looking.

Social commentary films do not usually age well. And "The Landlord" certainly shows its age. I kept expecting a Simon and Garfunkel song at almost any moment.

Overall, this film is an enjoyable throwback to a bygone era of hippies, social consciousness and the generation gap. It has its flaws, but hippie Ashby gets his message across effectively, owing to an adroit mix of seriousness and humor.
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Beau Bridges in a great , rare seen film
MovieCriticMarvelfan16 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Made in 1970, the Landlord with Beau Bridges is one of the

best dramatic and comedic Seventies movies I have seen.

I saw on it on Turner Classic Movies and after a couple of

minutes of watching it, I knew it was good.

Beau Bridges is the son of a wealthy but racist white mom, who falls in love with a black woman named Fanny and who ends up actually having a baby with her!!!

Elgar's mother, Mrs. Enders is the owner of a building in

which several black people live in. Mrs. Enders cares nothing about the people except that they pay her on time with rent.

Elgar, on the other hand, is a sensitive and open minded

guy who gets along with everyone in the building with the

exception of a black racist professor named Professor Duboise (Melvin Stewart). Every encounter these two have, results in either Duboise mocking the white society, or

Duboise, try to show Elgar how superior black people are

to white people.

When it was it released it probably got alot of controversy

because interracial romances was something that just wasn't shown on screen. Making things more complicated is

the fact, that black men and women still didn't have the rights that white people in the time.

It's a great example of great cinema directing, in one scene, Elgar Enders (Beau) has just made love to

Fanny, then the girls leans over and tells him that she

loves her boyfriend Copee (played by Louis Gosset Jr in

one of his first movie appearences). The scene then cutaways to Elgar running to talk to another girl for advice

while Fanny is telling Elgar this.

Copee is a black, jealous and violent boyfriend of Fanny.

When he learns that Fanny is pregnant and he is not the father, he goes berserk, beating Fanny into telling him who the father is.

Once Copee, learns who it is, he grabs an axe and goes

after Elgar!!!!

I loved the film because it breaks several stereotypes:

*It shows that color doesn't matter when we are talking about love, it's all about the feelings a man and woman feel for each other that is important.

*Elgar represents a group of conscious men who don't see Blacks and other minorities as inferior. In fact, throughout the film, Elgar is actually happier with his

black friends than with his own mother.

*There are several messages about the dysfunctional family.

Elgar's mother (Lee Grant) is a rich white woman who has everything, yet she is a cold, miserable woman.

It was interesting to see Louis Gossett Jr. (Copee) as a crazy , jealous boyfriend . He usually plays good guy roles, but in this role, he nails his part by playing a guy who

has completely lost it.

The movie was directed by Hal Ashby, a man who has directed

several important cult films of our time including:

*Being There (1979 film with Peter Sellers ) *Shampoo (Great 1975 film with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie)

* Coming Home (A good 1978 film with Jane Fonda)

This is a very good movie, hard to find on video, but I highly recommend it.
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Worth the rent!
brefane3 July 2012
Hal Ashby's debut film may be somewhat over-directed, but it is one of his best;funny, provocative and pointed. And I prefer it to Bound for Glory,Coming Home,Harold and Maude and Shampoo. The Landlord is Ashby's most audacious film and along with The Last Detail (1973)it's his best. The change in tone is consistent with the main character's developing awareness and involvement with the tenants he had planned to displace in order to convert the building into his private home. Lee Grant is terrific as Bridge's mother and earned an Oscar nomination for supporting actress and no less memorable are Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Gossett Jr. Bridges is winning as the landlord who arrives to make change and winds up being changed and Trish Van Devere is funny in her one scene. The on location shooting, terrific cinematography and surprising dialog keep it real and interesting. Not as well known as it should be.
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Commentary That Still Holds Weight
hillari11 December 2000
Gentrification is one of the issues covered in this comedy-drama. The plot also covers post-Civil Rights era feelings, race relations, and class distinctions. Elgar is a clueless 30 year old rich boy who thinks he's going to turn a Harlem tenement into a bachelor pad. The poor and working class African-Americans who live there will not be displaced so easily. There are good performances all around, especially by Lee Grant and the late Diana Sands. Robert Klein has a small role as a party guest at Elgar's parent's house who shows up in blackface.
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Hal Ashby debuts
lee_eisenberg19 May 2007
Hal Ashby (famous for the likes of "Harold and Maude", "The Last Detail", "Shampoo", "Bound for Glory", "Coming Home" and "Being There") made his directorial debut with the offbeat Beau Bridges vehicle "The Landlord". Bridges plays Elgar Enders, the son of a wealthy - but pretty despondent - landlady (Lee Grant). Grouchy and pretty bigoted, this woman cares only about her African-American tenants paying their rent. So when Elgar takes over the apartment building, he not only decides to change things for the better, but he also begins to develop a relationship with one of the women in the building.

Like many movies that came out around 1970, this one features numerous jump cuts between totally different scenes. I don't know the specific purpose of this, but I get the feeling that they may have done it to create a sense of the confusion pervading the world due to the unprecedented changes occurring around that time. But I will say that it helps to stress Elgar's disgust with his family's ignorance and scorn of the world outside theirs. You really have to root for what he does as landlord of this building, just as a complete rejection of everything that he's been raised to believe and do.

All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie. Maybe it goes a little overboard in practically beatifying Elgar, but he really deserves it. Lee Grant's character will probably make your skin crawl. Louis Gossett Jr. - whom I previously only thought of as Fiddler on "Roots" - plays one nasty dude (though we understand why he's like he is). Ditto Prof. Dubois (Melvin Stewart).

So see it. You'll probably like it. Also starring Robert Klein and Hector Elizondo in early roles.
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A Lost Satire That's Socially Honest and Ironically Prophetic
madbandit2000200030 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Time's a funny thing. It contains a lot of things, but doesn't always keep track of everything. Moments fall in the cracks. Some moments are forgettable; others shouldn't be. One of the moments is a movie called "The Landlord," an adept, racially-charged and thoughtful satire that makes "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" looks like "Enchanted April".

Wanting to leave his family's affluent Long Island abode, breezy, twenty-nine-year-old, blue blood Elgar Enders (Beau Bridges of "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Jerry Maguire") buys a tenement building in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and hopes to convert into a rich hippie pad. However, the residents, all poor and African-American, won't (unsurprisingly) abide being relocated, using comical scare tactics or hermetic indifference. Elgar counters by becoming the film's title, taking on the edifice's welfare while earning admiration (Pearl Bailey's delightful as a fortune teller); seduction (Diana Sands's a frustrated housewife/ hairdresser; Marki Bey's a strong yet out of place mulatto artist and go-go dancer at a nearby nightclub) and scorn (a pre-Oscar winning Louis Gossett Jr. as Sands's militant yet derelict husband; Mel Stewart of "All In The Family" is an unlicensed teacher, who guides the neighborhood children) in the ghetto while infuriating his parents (Walter Brooke and Lee Grant, who earned an Oscar nomination for this gig) to high hell and a half. This is what happens when you put too much cream in your coffee.

Armed with a smart, sharp, funny and poignant script by actor-scribe Bill Gunn (the avant-garde horror film, "Ganja & Hess") that was adapted from a now-scarce novel by Kristin Hunter, Hal Ashby ("Shampoo", "Being There", "Harold & Maude", "The Last Detail") made an impressive debut as a maverick director, after editing films for Norman Jewison, who supervised the film's production. With his skills and d.p. Gordon Willis (the Godfather saga, mentored Mike Chapman of "Taxi Driver"), Ashby gives "The Landlord" a funky, gritty, kaleidoscope narrative, complimenting the tale's consciousness. Soliloquies, flashbacks, visual thought balloons are here and cool. It's fascinating and ironic that a white director (despite being middle-age at the time, Ashby was quite the hippie) and a black screenwriter (Gunn was a writer of all trades) worked in sync to examine the racial, social and economical gaps between their ethic camps. There's a flashback scene of Elgar's all-white grade school class; "Children, how do we live?" the teacher asks. It cuts to a black man having the inability to hail a cab. How do we live? How indeed.

None of the cast makes a false step, no matter how big or small their roles. Bridges, obviously scarred by his father being blacklisted in the 1950s, is pitch-perfect as the title character, a naive, overgrown Little Lord Fauntleroy, thinking racial strife can be achieved by common courtesy without learning why there is in the first place. Ms. Sands, ("A Raisin In The Sun") who sadly passed away three years after the film's release, finds Elgar fascinating (and sexy!) as sassy but delicate Franny, who wallows in the memories of her beauty pageant days. Not because he's rich and white but "socially pure", unlike Gossett ("An Officer and A Gentleman", "Roots"), as Copee, a rightfully angry black man who wants to fight back against the system that broke him but neglects Franny and their son. No wonder the kid smokes and Franny...well, cream and coffee Singer Pearl Bailey's a wise hoot as fortune teller Marge, who accepts Elgar's attempts to redeem the building's derelict conditions. Lee Grant (who worked again with Ashby on "Shampoo") is quite the hypocrite as Joyce Elders. She accepts black people but not too close. When she and Bailey get high and drunk, you'll know why. There's also Marki Bey (the black zombie grindhouse yarn "Sugar Hill") as Elgar's second girl, Lainie, the mixed daughter of divorced parents, who feels the "heat" when she's with Elgar. Unlike Gossett's Copee, Mr. Stewart's more subtle in his animosity toward his landlord. He lays the final blow that makes the rich kid grow up.

Straight-forward comical elements are handled by Mr. Brooke as Elgar's father; future sitcom director Will McKenzie as Elgar's brother; Robert Klein ("The Pursuit of Happiness") as Elgar's brother-in-law and Susan Anspach as Elgar's pot-head sister. Through it all, there are neither good nor bad people in the film, just victims of social prejudice and expectations.okay, Joe Madden as Elgar's grandfather, silent, senile and wheelchair-bound, is probably one, a relic of old, good white boy prestige gone to pot. Look out for future Garry Marshall figure Hector Elizondo.

Lively and funky is the music by Al Kooper, the co-founder of the white R&B group, Blood, Sweat & Tears, bookended by two hard, soulful tracks by the Staple Singers.

Ignored by the public upon its release, "The Landlord" has become a holy grail to filmmakers and movie fans. It's also a prophecy; once derelict Park Slope is now a haven for the high-pocketed crowd. Sadly, the social problems still exist, making the film, like the sitcoms of Norman Lear, timeless. It deserves a proper DVD release. Maybe a limited double-bill showing with the recent "Django Unchained"; they both deal with "how we live."
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An interesting idea that just doesn't hold up throughout the film
MartinHafer15 January 2008
Beau Bridges plays a rich young man who, on a whim, buys a tenement building in a lousy neighborhood. His intention is to renovate the building into luxury apartments, but over time this changes as he starts to bond with his Black residents and seems like he would like to be Black as well. At first, when he comes to the building, he is scared away by some of the residents. Seeing Lou Gossett and the rest chasing him down the street was awfully funny, as were the social commentaries made by comparing these people with Bridges' stuck up liberal family--a family with lofty ideals, but were amazingly prejudiced at heart. However, after being a mildly diverting comedy, the film turned dreadfully serious and just seemed to lose momentum. It also had some nice insights about prejudice and race relations. In the end, though, much of original impact of the film just seemed lost. And, while it was meant as a bit of shocking film in its day, today it seems a tad dated and Bridges' character a bit unlikable.

I think aside from this mixed focus, I was also disappointed because the film was directed by the same man that did the delicious black comedy, HAROLD AND MAUDE. While some elements of THE LANDLORD seemed similar to this other film in spirit, this only seemed to be in fleeting glimpses. There were many excellent moments, but overall it just didn't hold my interest.
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Beau Bridges as The Landlord - A Must See Experience
JLRMovieReviews20 May 2014
Beau Bridges buys a New York apartment building and moves in to manage it. That is basically the premise. But there is much more to it than that. I can usually tell from fade-in whether a movie is one that I can get into and if I buy into the characters' world, in other words if it feels authentic or not. And, this film really delivers. To begin with, Beau really must have "it," as many women come on to him, including the black tenants. His eccentric mother, played wonderfully by Lee Grant is a real hoot, but the heart of the film belongs to the people who live, dream, struggle and love in this apartment building. One of which is a married black woman who falls for him and when her husband finds out all hell breaks loose. I feel like my meager words can't really capture what this film does, the life of the early 1970s in a borough of New York. With direction by Hal Ashby, the film has an affection for its complicated characters and their drive to get through today and to have a better tomorrow. And, Pearl Bailey adds her sassy self to the mix. This is really one of the best 1970s films I've ever seen. Watch "The Landlord" and see Beau Bridges at his best as he is in the raw reality of 1970s New York.
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A small gem in a sea of early 1970s mediocrity; but not a comedy
vincentlynch-moonoi1 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
You never know how a particular film may stick in your memory for years or even decades. For me -- just a year into college -- "The Landlord" was one such film. Naturally, it isn't quite as good as I remembered it being, but it's still caviar in an era that was so full of Hamburger Helper films.

What a difference 35 years makes. When the film came out it made fun of the White rich. Now the comparatively militant Blacks depicted in this film look pretty much just as silly.

However, lest you think this is a comedy, think again. It is a film about disillusionment. Disillusionment about being a member of the upper class. Disillusionment about being a member of the lower class. Disillusionment about being White. Disillusionment about being Black. There are no winners in this film.

Although it was actually his ninth film, it was the first time I ever really noticed Beau Bridges. I adored him. And still prefer his acting over that of his more successful brother. He's perfect here as the terribly naive White rich boy who, on a lark, purchases a tenement. What a hunk he was back then! Providing the balance -- at least for the early part of the film -- is Pearl Bailey, an actress and performer whom I never really cared for (despite seeing her live in "Hello Dolly" at the Kennedy Center). But here -- really quite good! Lee Grant plays Bridges' mother, and does so with panache, being the classic bitchy White snob. She's great fun. Diana Sands and a very young Louis Gossett have impressive roles as a married couple who face an ultimate challenge.

This film was a failure and didn't stay around long at the box office. Perhaps it's because the trailer gave people the impression it was a comedy. And word of mouth told everyone is was actually a somewhat depressing drama (with occasional humorous situations). Nevertheless, it is a rather penetrating look at where we were as a nation back in 1970.
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Good, if not attention-grabbing film
encyes11 October 2012
I tried to stay with "The Landlord". I really did. I watched it first because I was into early 1970 movies filmed on location in New York City. When I found that there wasn't too much background footage, I stuck with it to see where it was going. Now, I understand what the writer and filmmaker were going for: the perception and direction of the black community at this period of time and the integration of a naive white person in the midst of it. But I found it to be slow moving, not due to the actors - who do a decent job - and wondering where it was going and ultimately when it was going to end. I know that tons of people like and love this film. And I'm not saying it's awful, but I did lose interest in it, very early on.
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Flawed, but still very relevant to this day. **Spoilers**
EndlessUniverse19 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The first film by director Hal Ashby, "The Landlord" is a mixed bag.

The story centers on Elgar (Beau Bridges), a white man from a wealthy upper class family who moves into a lower class apartment building in New York. Elgar takes over the building as the landlord, intending to evict all of the African American tenants living inside. However, as he gets to know his neighbors and develops relationships with them, he begins to learn valuable life lessons about race and responsibility.

There's a lot to admire in Hal Ashby's "Landlord". Very few films before or since have tackled the topic of race and presented it in such a straight forward light. Scenes, such as the party in the middle of the movie, where the tenants discuss with Elgar what it is to be a minority at the time, or one towards the end of the film, where an African American activist breaks down and goes on a rant of racial self hate, are both chilling and unforgettable.

The performances are outstanding as well. Beau Bridges is very convincing as the thoughtless, naive Elgar who grows to embrace the African American culture.

Dianna Sands is the standout of the movie, playing the tragic Fanny with such real emotion and likability that you can't help but feel for her character during the more dramatic scenes of the film.

Lou Gossett Jr, Pearl Bailey, Mel Stewart, and Lee Grant are also great in their respective roles.

That said, the film does have its share of problems. The most prominent being the tone and the story's progression. Labelled as a comedy and a drama, the film has drastic tonal shifts that makes it, as a whole, seem uneven. Take, for instance, a scene where Elgar's mother visits him in the apartment building. The disapproving mother comes over to chastise her son about integrating with the black tenants, only for Fanny to show up and reveal that she's pregnant with the Landlord's baby. The mother's paranoia is played for laughs as she envisions herself as a a plantation owner with many dark skinned grandchildren. In the scene immediately afterward, we're shown Fanny and her husband, Copee, as she reveals the affair and her pregnancy. The next few minutes of the sequence are absolutely terrifying as the enraged Copee hunts down and tries to murder Elgar with an axe. The rushed pregnancy plot takes the third act into almost melodrama territory (with the messages seeming more obvious/forced), and the film's ending becomes a bit sloppy as a result.

The unevenness also shows with the characters. Fanny and Elgar get a lot of development and screen time, while both of their love interests are strangely left behind. Lanie, Elgar's biracial girlfriend, never gets enough screen time for their confessed love towards the end of the movie to seem as genuine as it should. Likewise, Copee pops in and out of the movie solely to perform his role as the angry, cheated on husband. Both seem more like plot devices to display the messages they represent, rather than being fully fleshed out characters themselves. Even with the development, Elgar suffers a bit as well. The mentioned third act pregnancy plot takes the character back to the thoughtlessness he displayed in the beginning of the film, making it difficult to like him or care much about his trials in the end.

The Landlord is a good film with biting social and racial commentary, however the melodramatic elements in the story, and uneven script hold it back from being truly great.
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Almost a good story
myers-551687 January 2021
Warning: Spoilers
It almost had me...but that evil "Dr" character ruined it for me in the last few minutes
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It's unlikely this satirical comedy-drama would be made today.
MOscarbradley16 December 2020
I'm not sure this satirical comedy about race relations in 1970's America would be made today, times being what they are. Let's just say that if it were made today it would almost certainly be directed by an African-American director and the satire would be even more pointed. Unfortunately for many people the stereotypes are just...well, too 'stereotypical'. It was a Norman Jewison production but directing duties were handed to his former editor Hal Ashby, making his directorial debut.

It's about a white yuppie, (Beau Bridges, very good), who buys a tenement building in an African-American neighbourhood as an investment but finds he just can't get rid of his tenants and that, as he gets to know them, he becomes a little too involved in their lives and problems. Here is a movie about as subtle as a sledgehammer and it's often hard to shake the feeling we are meant to laugh at these characters, both black and white, rather than with them as if sending up the rich white folks makes the racist jibes seem funny.

About midway through it takes a somewhat melodramatic and unlikely turn that might seem even more offensive than the comedy but in its favour you can see that Ashby was prepared to take chances, (as Jewison had done with "In the Heat of the Night"), and risk being offensive if that's what it took. The performances throughout are excellent, (Lee Grant was Oscar-nominated as Bridges' mother), and while today we have to view it as a period piece and something of a curiosity, it's also a striking debut and deserves to be better known.
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Genuflections and gentrification
tieman646 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Hal Ashby released a string of excellent films in the 1970s ("Harold and Maude", "The Last Detail", "Bound for Glory", "Coming Home", "Being There", "Shampoo"). His directorial debut, "The Landlord", was equally self-assured.

The plot? Beau Bridges plays Elgar, the sheltered son of wealthy "bigots". Hoping to stake out a life of his own, Elgar purchases an apartment complex in Brooklyn, New York. He intends to kick out the occupants and refurbish the place, but soon falls in love with its occupants, all of whom are impoverished African Americans. Ashby, cinema's great hippie, then sketches Elgar's transformation from ignorant WASP to caring soul. The black characters he encounters remain sceptical, though. To many, Elgar's still a paternalistic, condescending white guy, his overt racism simply replaced with something more covert and pandering. These characters are themselves wrestling with issues of self-hate, black dependency and various inferiority complexes, all made worse when Elgar walks into their lives and starts sleeping with black women ("You whities scream about miscegenation but you done watered down every race you ever hated!").

"The Landlord" was produced by Norman Jewison, who was hot off the success "Heat of the Night", another race drama. Ashby's film was shot by cinematographer Gordon Willies, who would go on to film the "Godfather" trilogy, and cameraman Michal Chapman, who would go on to be the cinematographer on "Taxi Driver".

7.5/10 - See "Red Hook Summer".
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Fashionably fragmented but a chore to sit through...
moonspinner5514 December 2006
Beau Bridges plays a rich white kid who buys a tenement slum in a Brooklyn neighborhood mostly populated by blacks; he quickly butts heads with the ambivalent tenants over his plans for the property. Hal Ashby-directed comedic drama attempts a then-fashionable avant-garde approach to the scenario, with sequences chopped up in an irritatingly 'clever' style and fantasy sequences interspersed which strive to tell us The Truth. It's an ambitious movie with a fine cast (including Lee Grant as Bridges' dotty mother and Diana Sands as his eventual lover), but the picture intrinsically has no style at all--it's a movie made in the editing room, and it is so punctuated with a kind of lazy ambition that there's very little to respond to. *1/2 from ****
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A feel Good Movie..
trickrider19 October 2003
This overall excellent movie from the early 70's blackploitation period showcased the stereotypes that permeated the landscape of those times. It came out during the same time period as All In The Family. The Landlord dealt with some of the same issues as Archie Bunkers family did. Thank God there was a time that wasn't PC and things could be shown as they were and not as someone wished they would be.

As America struggled with the issues of race and prejudice, a movie such as this came along and tried to show that color shouldn't be a barrier to true love and friendship. Nowadays, it's nothing for blacks and whites to mix. The barriers have been somewhat broken, although some may say it was forced on white america with all the affirmative action laws and equal rights.

I always thought Beau Bridges was one of the least attractive actors whatwith his big bushy eyebrows, but after I saw The Landlord, he was actually somewhat handsome and cute in his 20's! And the fact that the lead actor falls in love with a light-skinned blackwoman wasn't lost on me either. Hollywood will still only use lighter black women(Halley Berry, Vanessa Williams types) for lead roles in movies. Beau Bridges even mentions it to his mother that she might like his new black girlfriend because she was "very light". I guess they were ahead of the times back then!But we all know it's so as not to offend WHITE AMERICA.

And there was also the rascism that is directed from blacks towards whites that still exist today. It's like some blacks think ALL whites are bad people. That we all are descendants from the white slave-owners! Many of us came over as immigrants from European countries and had nothing to do with slavery!

All in all, The Landlord was a good movie. I almost thought I was watching the Black Entertainment channel! But it was AMC! And it was good. And there was a lot of symbolism in the movie, like the white family wearing alot of white clothing and living in a white house! And it also shows that if you get to know someone and act like a human being with a heart, color won't matter at all. People are people on the inside and that is what we need to look at, not what is on the outside! We can appreciate our diversities and enjoy them..not ridicule them. In the movie we see that ignorance leads to the problems of racism. Not color! Check this movie out.
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Was With It Up to a Point
evanston_dad7 April 2020
I was really with "The Landlord," Hal Ashby's offbeat 1970 comedy, up to a point, but by the end I really disliked this movie.

Most of the responsibility for that falls on lead actor Beau Bridges, who plays a socially conscious man brought up by an oblivious rich family and decides to rehab an apartment building in a black ghetto. I didn't like his character much, but that's not really the problem. I just don't like Beau Bridges very much, so it was hard to get into the groove of the film since he's in virtually every scene. Hal Ashby's quirky fingerprints are all over this movie, but the story starts to meander and unravel the longer the movie goes on. It's a shame I didn't like it more, because it's become incredibly relevant again, what with its dissection of gentrification and misguided white liberal guilt.

Lee Grant received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing one of the most popular character types to be recognized in that particular award category, the overbearing mother. She plays her like a dingbat society matron from one of those 1930s screwball comedies, but her performance becomes progressively more awkward as the film around her begins to shift in tone while she doesn't modulate at all to match it.

Grade: B
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Reminded my of a 1970's Woody Allen type stylistic film
Ed-Shullivan20 April 2020
Not memorable at all. White bread naive rich guy (Beau Bridges) buys a run down Brooklyn tenement in a predominantly black neighborhood and discovers that the tenants are real people with real problems, and one of those problems is their inability to pay their rent on time each month. There is a lot of useless banter between Beau Bridges and his matriarch mother (Lee Grant) who he still lives with (as a 30 plus year old son) about what her son should do with his life, and being a landlord and subsequent lover of one of his black tenants is not one of them.

I watched it, and I won't be able to remember much about this film as it was filled with useless banter and even less of a story line.

I give it a meaningless 5 out of 10 IMDB rating
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