Last Days of Coney Island full movie review - as out of this world as anything Bakshi's done (probably more-so)
Finally, on his 77th birthday, the first film from Ralph Bakshi in many years has hit the web.
One wonders after so many years if it will still have the same punch and kick that those films from the 1970's that knocked people off their feet did (Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, Wizards, Hey Good Lookin, American Pop). Oh boy does it ever! It's 22 minutes of unfiltered Bakshi, almost (no, definitely) to the point of over-load. I couldn't get enough of it and watched it twice back to back.
Does it have a story? Yeah, it kind of does. It follows two guys, one is Max, a shlubby sort of man who loves Molly, and the other guy is Terry, a guy who runs the 'freak-show' on Coney Island, and we see their fates rise and fall over time. It's set in the 1960's, but it's not at all set in any kind of realistic world. Or, I should say, it IS realistic to what Bakshi was feeling and thinking back then and for all the years since: he has backgrounds and buildings in jagged shapes and smears, with watercolors that look like they're bleeding profusely all around the characters. It's like Max, Terry and Molly are in the middle of a gigantic cluter-f*** of a collage.
In other words, this is Bakshi working without a net, and it's thrilling and brutal to watch. Brutal in not just the violence - there's some parts where you see these cartoon characters get cut up and (no s***) butchered, and it's shocking and at the same time very funny because of how manic it comes out as - but also in its general presentation. Bakshi's characters are drawn and we can see that, even as this was likely animated in a computer; they all seem to have the pencil lines going about, and that's rare to see today (maybe just unheard of in a time where animation is cute and hip like on TV or with what Pixar is doing). This isn't really 'cute'. Last Days of Coney Island feels like a howl of pain and misery, but done up in such an artistic way that it's invigorating in a strange way.
Here, it's like you get an entire world poured out of some guy's head with animation: sometimes there's clips from old movies or newsreels (i.e. Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy loom large here, like the ghosts that never can really leave, certainly not in 1960's working class places). It's only 22 minutes long, again, not a feature like in the past (only so much money from online donations), but it feels like you get more than you could've expected. Just in the story Terry tells about "My True Story" from when he was a kid, I felt like I got a rich experience that felt more like poetry than traditional storytelling.
I should note as the one criticism: it's crude. Oh God, it's so crude. But in a sense that's what I love about it; it definitely will not appeal to all tastes, and its maker I'm sure intended it that way. It's a jazzy riff on an era and mind-set, of big dumb guys and big broads who sometimes, once in a while, slept with circus clowns. If this is Bakshi's last work, he went out with a cannon shot to a skull.