Dustin Hoffman turns in another tour de force performance as comedian
Lenny Bruce in this Bob Fosse biopic.
Bruce was the 1950/60's comedian whose language and subject matter got
him into all kinds of trouble with the obscenity laws of the time; yet
he also paved the way for others who followed, including the likes of
George Carlin and his classic bits like "Seven Words You Can't Say
on Television" - as well as many comedians who followed.
You learn from this film that Bruce was far more than just a foul mouthed
comedian, however. His was social commentary where he skewered perceived
hypocrisy wherever he found it - and ended up paying the price for poking
at the Establishment with a pointy stick.
Fosse uses a fake documentary style for the film, blending so-called
interviews with those who knew Bruce (though mostly his wife Honey, well
played by Valerie Perrine) and so-called concert footage of Bruce on stage.
The black and white filming is perfect for the period, and the mood, of
the film and the cinematography is nothing short of outstanding.
Also outstanding is Hoffman, who doesn't really look like Bruce, but
it doesn't matter. Some of the comedy club scenes appear to have been
shot in one take, which means Hoffman had to do more than merely act the
part from shot to shot; he had to become Lenny Bruce - and he does this
masterfully. During one particular scene, when a strung out Bruce staggers
onto stage and mumbles a disjointed and tragically unfunny monolog, you
really feel as if you're there in the best seat in the balcony (though
the tiny club would undoubtedly not have had a balcony) watching this
supposed giant self destruct live on stage.
Fosse does a great job of connecting different events in Bruce's life,
and showing us how various things that happened to Bruce ended up being
part of his commentaries/monologs later on.
Lenny draws you into the life of this comedian and the seedy clubs and
people who were his circle. We watch him rise, we see him fall - and we
feel for him as his life becomes not only a constant fight with the authorities
but with the drugs that threaten to drag him and his wife down to ignominious
Nominated for six Oscars, this is a movie that not only gives some interesting
insight into an era, it makes you almost feel as if you were there.
The DVD is very good, though MGM has managed to avoid putting much in
the way of extras on it. The black and white picture, which is offered
in both anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and Pan&Scan versions
on opposite sides of the disc, is very good. It's sharp and contrasty
and perfectly complements the film's setting and subject material.
The audio is Dolby Digital mono and is probably the weakest technical
part of the DVD. It works for the movie, however, because it enhances
the 1960's documentary feel of the film.
The only extra, unfortunately, is the original theatrical trailer.
Lenny, from MGM Home Video
111 min. amamorphic widescreen (1.85:1)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine
Produced by Marvin Worth,
Written by Julian Barry, Directed by Bob Fosse
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