On the Bowery (1957)
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Critic Reviews for On the Bowery
"On the Bowery" offers some of the most indelible faces in an American docudrama, faces ravaged by alcohol and poverty, creased by defeat and self-deception, surrounded by a New York City that does not care. Yet no one on screen asks for pity.
On the Bowery runs only 65 minutes, but by the end you can feel skid row in your bones.
Shot on 16mm in black-and-white with a Bolex camera, the results remain stunningly authentic.
This landmark documentary disturbs and compels as much today in a new 35mm restoration as it did when it opened in 1956 to both criticism and acclaim.
As a record of a time and a place in the history of New York, it's essential. As a depiction of men at the bottom of their lives, it has the same sorrowful, accusatory force as a great Depression-era photograph by Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans.
Audience Reviews for On the Bowery
it's a tough film to watch but an important one too. rogosin was one of the first independent filmmakers in america. his first film shows a bygone skid row section of new york and the men who sleep in missions and on the streets, slaves to demon rum
The docufiction "On the Bowery" is best viewed as a look back at a time and place that no longer exists when derelicts would congregate on The Bowery underneath the Third Avenue Elevated tracks in Manhattan. Ray(Ray Salyer) has just returned from far flung New Jersey where he was working on the railroads. Once back in town, he goes drinking with Gorman(Gorman Hendricks). Together, they sell a pair of Ray's pants to get a room for the night but Ray does not make it that far, passing out on the street where he is not alone. Seeing an opportunity, Gorman steals his suitcase which contains Ray's prized fob watch.
One way that "On the Bowery" goes wrong is in its unconvincingly staged action(Ray never mentions his lost suitcase again) in a moderately successful attempt to mimic Italian neorealism, according to the making of documentary that followed(I didn't stay for the whole documentary since dinner and a train were calling).(Also mentioned is that the filmmakers were very knowledgeable about alcohol, preferring a watering hole in Greenwich Village.) Even with non-professional actors and real locations, director Lionel Rogosin could not quite match the evocative power of those films due to the slightest of storylines which has little to say on the human condition.
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