Monday, March 5, 2018

Last Days of Coney Island (2015)

It's a goddamn shame that a legend like Ralph Bakshi is reduced to crowd funding campaigns to produce - what I can only imagine will be - his last animated film. The man who pioneered adult, hand-drawn masterworks like "Heavy Traffic", "Fire and Ice" and "American Pop" came out of retirement after close to 20-years - having penned a concept for an all new film that, no doubt, would've so perfectly rounded out an amazing and innovative career. But what happens? He's shot down by the limp-dicked studios who want to shove all of their animation funds towards another inane "Minions" or Jack Black as a talking panda. So, along with his son, Bakshi went ahead and crafted "Last Days of Coney Island" into a 22-minute short film that, for what it is, is excellent, though could've easily amounted to SO much more had he been given some more solid backing.

The film follows parallel story-lines set in 1960s Brooklyn - one having to do with the son of a carnival psychic who's indoctrinated into the mob after slaughtering his mother and her lover - a clown - who he discovers having sex. He gets his revenge further by 'shaking down' the Coney Island clowns. There's also a cop whose girlfriend - an exotic dancer - is busted in a raid that he has a hand in, causing him tremendous guilt and depression. The two stories eventually intersect - leading into a pretty dark ending.

The look of the film is MUCH rougher than any of Bakshi's past films. Having pretty much been drawn solely by Ralph - the lines are sketchy and loose and there's no 'in-betweening' - making for a less-than fluid animation style. Despite this, however, the look of film is full of charm and is awesome to look at. I've always heavily admired Bakshi's versatility in his movies themes and, as much as I love his fantasy stuff like "Fire and Ice", "Lord of the Rings" and "Wizards" - it was really cool to see him return to the sleazy 'urban decay' style that he so well depicted with "Fritz the Cat", "Coonskin" and, my favorite of all of his films, "Heavy Traffic". It's just disheartening that such an important name in animation is rejected by today's studio system who are afraid to take on adult animation on a broad scale.

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