EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CARNY (director/writer: Robert Kaylor; screenwriters: Thomas Baum/story by Phoebe Kaylor, Robert Kaylor and Robbie Robertson; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.; editor: Stuart Pappé; music: Alex North; cast: Gary Busey (Frankie), Jodie Foster (Donna), Robbie Robertson (Patch), Meg Foster (Gerta), Kenneth McMillan (Heavy St. John), Elisha Cook (On-Your-Mark), Bill McKinney (Marvin Dill), Bert Remsen (Delno Baptiste), John Lehne (Skeet), Craig Wasson (Mickey); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robbie Robertson; Warner Home Video; 1980)|
ambiance turns out to be much richer than the
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Documentary filmmaker Robert Kaylor ("Derby"/"Max-Out"/"Nobody's Perfect") tries his hand at fiction and nearly hits a home run, except for the unconvincing conclusion and a plot that's too thin to give the film much depth. It's a dark atmospheric traveling carnival story that has the same affinity for freaks as did Tod Browning's Freaks (1932). Writer Thomas Baum bases the haunting film on a hearty group of survivors in the carnival circuit. It's set in the seedy parts of the South, and is based on the story by Phoebe Kaylor, Robert Kaylor and The Band's rock guitarist/vocal leader Robbie Robertson.
Busey) and Patch (Robbie
Robertson) have been partners in a carny
hustle for the
last ten years, where Frankie dresses up like Bozo the
Clown and sits
in a cage as he eggs the crowd on so they throw balls
at him and if
they hit the mark they dunk the loudmouth into a tub
of water. The
cynical smoothie Patch, the peacemaker Mr.
Fix-It, works the
midway, hustling business, handling disputes,
assisting the head of the
paying off bribes to local leaders and gangsters so
the carnival can
operate and acting as security for
targeted partner. In Reading, the 18-year-old
unhappy bored waitress,
Donna (Jodi Foster), ditches her obnoxious boyfriend
Wasson) and after a
one-night stand talks Frankie into taking her along
to their next stop
in Raleigh. She first romances Frankie, and then
makes love to Patch.
This brings on some tension. But not as much as the
climactic scene in
Charlotte where the carnival is threatened by the
evil local shady
businessman with mob and political connections (Bill McKinney)
boorish redneck henchman (John
and the boys must retaliate against their violent
foes or face ruin.
The stark road movie/buddy movie could have been better if Kaylor was more adept at going for the jugular and creeping everyone out by really getting down and dirty instead of copping out with an unwarranted trite saccharine ending to a story that features real circus freaks, a great wacky performance by Elisha Cook as the elderly hamburger operator with the bizarre lines that zing you, and its ability to create authentic carnival sleaziness. Carny demanded an edgy ending to all the perversity it dredged up, and a more artistic filmmaker would have been able to avoid the banality Kaylor reaches for when he becomes too timid at the high wire act he set up. The ambiance turns out to be much richer than the narrative, in this still intriguing misanthropic pic (freaks and outsiders against the ugly conventional world) that revels in the pleasure one gets in hustling someone at their con game.
REVIEWED ON 5/8/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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