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The Outsiders: New Hollywood Cinema in the Seventies

Friday, September 2, 2011
9:10 p.m. The Landlord
Hal Ashby (U.S., 1970)

“A film that, thirty-four years later, still feels daring, both stylistically and politically.” Darren Hughes, Senses of Cinema

Hal Ashby’s debut comedy The Landlord marked the dawn of a new American cinema, more concerned with creating a mood and a feel for place than with typical Hollywood narrative; its comic dissection of race and class “feels like a Marx Brothers movie charged up on LSD and left-wing politics” (Salon). “So, I bought this house. It’s in this old ghetto area,” drawls casually clueless rich-boy Beau Bridges, but he’s unprepared for the reaction of either his tenants (including Pearl Bailey and Louis Gossett, Jr.) or his own blithely racist family (“I mean, we’re all liberals, but open hybridization?”). Marked by cinematography by Gordon Willis (The Godfather; Annie Hall), some playfully radical editing and sound aesthetics, and a trenchant script by Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess), The Landlord not only offers a fascinating glimpse at pregentrification Park Slope, Brooklyn (or “that dreadful slum”), but is “one of the funniest social comedies of the period, as well as the most human” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice).

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Bill Gunn, based on the novel by Kristen Hunter. Photographed by Gordon Willis. With Beau Bridges, Pearl Bailey, Lee Grant, Marki Bey. (112 mins, Color, 35mm, From MGM)