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Parent Issue
Day
14
Month
February
Year
1975
OCR Text

Starring Dustin Hoffman as Lenny ; Valerie Perrine as Honey Bruce. With Jann Mincr as Sally Marr Bruce; Stanley Beek as the Manager; Gary Morton as Sherman Hart. Screenplay by Julián Barry. from the play LKNNY by Julián Barry, directed by Torn O'Horgan. Directed by Bob Kosse. 145 minutes. LENNY is the story of one of the most outrageous, unconventional quick-witted and allseeing public personalities to hit the boards in the last few decades.. .Lenny Bruce. Lenny's words were sliarp enough to throw you off the chair in surprise, and his undershanding of the political and social contradictions of America was rare in its accuracyjind humor. Lenny Bruce was the beatnik jester at its best, and il is a pure shame that America put liim in jail during his lifetime and now that he's dead looks on him ..-; as the Great Martyr of the ll)60's It is too ironie that ihis complex man of kiughs and surprises has been reduced to blando conventionulity and apoloeetics in the film Lenny. How easy to imagine Lenny watching tlie film and ilien doing a routine on it. His spirit, however. is ly as intrigued with the film as anyone wlio ever admired or has now come to love Lenny Bruce. There is enough of the man in the film to wet your lips and make you laugh and tlien feel siek at the tragedies of his lile. Lenny suffers from the most common root flaw of commercial films it bendsover backwards to muke things simple, compact, above all understandable. One hom and forty five minutes is surely sufficient time lo use the film form ti its lullest as ;i means of presenting a variety of ideas, characters and levéis of peí ce pt ion. Lenny makes some attempts at altei mg the standard cinematic narrative form. It is not a strict narrative, but a series of doaimentary stylc interviews between three major people in his lite his witc. mother, and manager. Each of the three appears several times in the film as they would be today. looking older and looking backward to the way they knew Lenny, and the tliings lliui huppened to liim. The three appear individually. talking into a tape recorder, witli an bff-camera male voiee presenting them witli questions. The r&Colléction then moves into the old standby-the flashback as the story teller scène merges into the portrayal of the past incident. The film is overwhelmingly charactei ied by frustrated attempts at realism. Tlie documentary-flashback narrative is visually interpreted through an unusually stark and close black and white camera style. High contrast film ;md the seemingly realistic lighting give the film an A ming and person-to-person tone. There is a distinct feeling ot being there. That personalizaron is the ftrsi prerequisite for an honest film about Lenny Bruce, because his carecí as a performer and ;i person is a series of events that con sisten tly turned away Trom the usual glitter and gloss óf the American style public personality. He shunned supci I icialnv like the plague, in tact lelt the Kosher nightcfub circuit and the Milton Bêrle approach to stand-up comedy because of lts superficiality. But do the script and the charactei iations live up to the unassuming level of the camera style? Pas du tout. as tliey say in Paree. The best answer to the question came frotn Chick Lder. a remarkable man who now works with Al Goldman, author of the best selling biography of Lenny Bruce. Ladiesand Genrietnen, Lenny linar, líder said "lenny was a multi-faceted human being. and the film, thougli ii's uood tbr what it is. shows only one of those many faccts." Whüt you sce in Lenny is a nice Jewisli guy. who followed in liis mom's showbiz footsteps to become a stand-up and very Jewish comedian. After a few years and a lot of hoofing around, and a marriage to.a bizarre if terrific stripper wife, Lenny realizes impersonations havo their limits, and he is a man who wants no boundaries. His act grows increasingly satiricai, biting and politica!. He shuntes around tlie country, his wife splits after the kid is bom. and graduaMy he rises to fame witli tliat biting longue. He starts shooting smack. gets busted lor obscenity, goes hroke, spends time in jail and a lot of time in court, his audicnces leave liim out ot boredom and he dies of an overdose. Now that's a nice fast moving emoiional hundrcd and five minute movie hey? Bul lito, and tor sure Lenny Bruce, is not tliat simple. Read his autobiograpliy and yoifll see liow far he could go into the darker realms of Hov To Talk Dirty And Influence Peoplc. The Playboy Press edition is cheap at SI .25. Besides the book there is a film floating around of his live club appearances, plus a few records of his live routines. All these quasi-live appearances of the deceased (1966) Lenny Bruce reveal a man who certainly saw America with deep reaching eyes, but he never pretended to have the answers. The movie Lenny tells us what is wrong with our society and our morality. He explains . meanings a liltle too precisely to be funny, like the scène where he asks if there are niggfers in the audience, then points out people as kikes, wops, dagos, et al. Lenny really did this routing and it did shock his audience into a self-realization of our social absurdities and the ridiculousness of words as tools of power or obscenity. The live Lenny would nou do what the movie Lennv did-explain to his audience what the routine meant, by saying See, it we said these words all the time and didn't hide them, they wouldn t mean nything, they wouldn"t hurt." The movie Lenny loses the real Lenny's fire by tliis uree to explain. Stopping to explain nieans ihat you lose time and levéis of awareness that could have gone into the less precise and more meaningful realism that Lenny inhabited. It means that Lenny Bruce is reduced to a definitely comprehensible man, not a man actually, but an archetype who explains in his actions and the things that happen to him whyAmerica is fucked up. Lenny puts Lenny Bruce on Marilyn Monroe Boulevard, f the direct road lo murtyrdom as a sacrifice to America's pain.s. The recent flood of Marilyn Monroe biographies-particularly Norman Mailer's Marilyn has made Monroe into a creuture who will explain what was wrong with America tlien. It's the nostalgia craze gone ideological. Like the other overdose martyr Janis Joplin, Lenny Bruce and , lyn Monroe led lives of apparently intense personal conflicts, and their personal dilemmas were magnified by their careers as public personalities. Heroin was a way out for Lenny and Janis, and Marilyn took the other road of downers. All three took the big out when they died of overdoses. thougli Mailer has recently launched a fairly credible public campaign to prove that Monroe died of murder rather than suicide. It s easily admitted that it is easier to deal with the contradictions of these people's lives now that they are dead then it was when they were alive. But what a classic form of cowardice, of dodging the issues of the present to seek THE answer in the lives of the dead. Enjoy Lenny, now playing at the Fifth Forum Theatre. but remember it is only one slice of a bigger pie.