Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY'S (1968) - William Friedkin

For a movie about the beginnings of burlesque, The Night They Raided Minsky's is a curiously neutered affair. Friedkin, normally no Puritan when it comes to lurid subject matter, takes a cue from his frigid protagonist, an Amish girl new to NYC who just wants to dance. She mostly forgoes the bump and grind in favor of tame sight gags, a half-assed love triangle, some light intrigue about a shutting down a theatre that nobody (including the owner) cares about anyway.

The only place where Friedkin's directorial enthusiasm really takes hold is in an overly-indulgent, overly-long opening credit sequence where he mixes black and white stock footage of 1920's Lower East Side with newly photographed color inserts, in effect "bringing the past to life" Wizard of Oz style. The scene smacks of desperation (a quick glance to the Minsky wiki page tells me this was the first musical shot on location in NYC). Somebody wanted to get the most of their location permit, it seems. Luckily, Friedkin would put his Big Apple location jones to much better use in The French Connection. In a British TV talk show interview, he called Minsky's "The biggest piece of crap I'd ever worked on." I haven't seen Jade just yet (and, at that time, neither had he). But, for now, I'm wont to agree.

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