Sunday, May 22
Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
(1966) George Morgan’s breakdown at the World’s Fair includes mother love, a cop impersonation, a trip to heaven, and becoming a rock band singer. The Underground’s first real smash hit. 35mm. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Film Foundation. Approx. 58 mins.
“For underground cinema legend Downey, the New York of the 1960s had enough caustic personality to fuel an outrageous series of countercultural features, which envisioned the city as a burlesque racket of careerist freaks, desperate immigrants, and expressions of sexual freedom—a place where you knew your ass meant money and everybody wanted a piece of it. Fast-paced and cynical, with little regard for narrative logic, these movies were necessarily as rude and abrasive as the world felt each day—and this jaunty satire of NYC as a professional wasteland is a perfect entry point into his career. Made for $25,000 and built to offend everybody, the film follows Walter (George Morgan) as he sleeps with his mother, gives birth to $1890 and is deemed a work of art by a dealer who passes him on the street—all in the first five minutes. With a huge cast of overly emphatic strangers cutting in at every turn, Walter’s ambitions are constantly thwarted, self-sabotaged or reset without comment, almost as if Groundhog Day lacked a conscience. When the women (all 13 of them played by the director’s wife, Elsie Downey) throw themselves on Walter, the screen splits into all kinds of cut-out shapes and sizes. Add to that a proto-John Waters laundry list of fetishes, and you have mostly everything you could want in a movie.”
– Micah Gottlieb, Brooklyn Magazine
“As good as anything in the Nouvelle Vague.”
– Jonas Mekas
“Virtually the first underground movie to receive favorable reviews from New York’s daily critics, it opened at the Gate in January, ran for two months, moved to the Bleecker (on a double bill with Scorpio Rising) for 11 weeks, then after a month’s hiatus returned to the Gate for the duration of the summer.”
– J. Hoberman