Next Stop, Greenwich Village
Paul Mazursky's semi-autobiographical period picture Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976) follows aspiring actor Larry Lapinsky (Lenny Baker) as he leaves his family home in Brooklyn to strike out on his own, all the way across town in Greenwich Village. It's 1953, and the Village really is a different world from that of his shrill, overbearing Jewish mother (Shelley Winters) and quiet father (Ben Kellin), and the frustratingly anecdotal film chronicles Lenny's adjustment to his new life amid beret-wearing hipsters. He has a smart, sexy girlfriend (Ellen Greene) and pals around with a group that includes an arty intellectual (Dori Brenner), a suicidal painter (Lois Smith), a womanizing writer (a very young, very pretty Christopher Walken), and the flamboyantly gay Bernstein (Antonio Fargas) who doesn't seem to need any other character details because when this film was made back in the '70s, being gay apparently was character detail enough. Mazursky does a fine job of bringing the period to life, and much of the film is genuinely engaging as we follow Larry through acting workshops, his job at the juice counter in a health food store, his evolving relationship with his lover, and his battles with his oppressive mom. But the movie is frightfully uneven and far too self-indulgent, with stagy dialogue and many uninteresting scenes that go on and on and on far past the point that a more discerning director would cut. The biggest liability, however, is Baker, a gifted Broadway actor who died of cancer in 1982. And it's not at all his fault, not really as written, Mazursky's on-screen alter-ego is incredibly annoying, whiny, and self-absorbed, often lapsing into prolonged monologues that involve horrible impersonations as he quotes pages of dialogue from famous films. Still, there are moments of pleasure to be found in the film, including two scenes with Jeff Goldblum as a boorish, Method-trained actor who Larry meets at an audition, and a party that Larry throws for all his cool Village friends that goes awry when his parents show up unexpectedly. It's a mixed bag, and certainly not in the same ballpark as Mazursky's Harry and Tonto or Blume in Love, but worth a peek if only for Walken and Goldblum. Fox's DVD release of Next Stop, Greenwich Village offers a very nice anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a source-print that's clean but a tad grainy and occasionally a bit dark, with unexceptional but adequate Dolby Digital 2.0 audio in the original monaural or not-very-different stereo track. On board is a very good commentary track featuring Mazursky and Greene, with Mazursky discussing the many biographical details, along with offering a lot of technical background and praising all his actors while describing Winters as "difficult" and Greene looking back with obvious delight at her first film role. Also on board is the theatrical trailer and promos for other '70s era Fox releases. Keep-case.