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  Heavy Traffic Make Me Wanna Holler
Year: 1973
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Stars: Joseph Kaufmann, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Frank DeKova, Terri Haven, Mary Dean Lauria, Jacqueline Mills, Lillian Adams, Jamie Farr, Robert Easton, Charles Gordone, Michael Brandon, Morton Lewis, Bill Striglos, Jay Lawrence, Lee Weaver
Genre: Comedy, Animated, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Michael Corleone (Joseph Kaufmann) is a half Italian/half Jewish kid who dreams of being a successful cartoonist, or even an animator, but so far is stuck living with his parents in one of the poorer areas of New York City, putting up with their near-constant arguments and avoiding the frequent conflicts outside their pokey apartment. He's not entirely cloistered, as he likes to play pinball at the local arcade, which sends him into a reverie where he imagines the characters he knows are animated figures interacting in extreme ways, but perhaps more true to life than he knows...

Director Ralph Bakshi claimed Heavy Traffic as the one film of his works which he counted as his favourite. It owed a lot to his previous effort, the adaptation of Robert Crumb's comic Fritz the Cat, but though it contained the same street smart mood it proved a far more autobiographical project, with young Michael as a stand-in for Bakshi in his early years, though the setting was contemporary to the nineteen-seventies era in which it was made. He rendered this as vividly as possible, with all the salty language, sex and violence which he believed was real life as it was lived in The Big Apple, a place at the time which was going to the dogs.

The city would recover after a fashion, but at the point Heavy Traffic was being crafted there were no apparent lights at the end of the tunnel, and this film reflected that squalor with all its less than salubrious aspects. For some, this lent the region an odd glamour, that nothing left to lose factor which was well to the fore in this cartoon and Bakshi's next, the controversial Coonskin - not that this item wasn't controversial in its way either. If animation could conjure a sense of place that wasn't some invented fantasy land, then it assuredly did here, you could very well imagine what it was like to wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere, not that it would leave you feeling very healthy.

There wasn't really a storyline to this, it was more a series of vignettes where Michael - who through absolutely no coincidence shared the same name as Al Pacino's character in The Godfather - made his way through life, aware that he is a virgin in a place where sex is obsessing just about everybody, including himself judging by his explicit drawings, which surely would have been solely permissable in underground publications: they were too down and dirty even for Playboy. One sequence sees Chuck Berry's Maybelline set to the artwork, a dizzying series of imagery which suggests X-rated Tex Avery and if you can take it, demonstrates Bakshi's talent and imagination as good as anything else he crafted.

Yet the movie is so purposefully intense that even the supposedly humorous parts come across as nightmarish: were we supposed to be laughing at the scene where Michael's father beats his mother in a grotesque parody of caricatured violence, or were we intended to be pondering the implications of Mr Corleone smashing his wife into submission? Elsewhere, Michael is goaded into finally having sex with a prostitute by the gang members he has resisted joining, yet callously the naked woman is accidentally pushed off the roof and dangles from a washing line about twenty feet up; we never even see her rescued. The cultural aspects arise in its mixing of the races, so our hero manages to charm the black bartender Carole (Beverly Hope Atkinson) into being his girlfriend, though she is far more experienced than he is. Somehow they make it work out for an optimistic, live action ending which at least finishes on a note of hope. And check out a prediction for Bakshi's later fantasy epics in one sequence. Music by Ed Bogas and Ray Shanklin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Ralph Bakshi  (1938 - )

American animator of edgy, often adult-oriented cartoons. He spent a few years directing shorts for TV before branching out on his own with the R. Crumb adaptation Fritz the Cat. He continued in this frank approach for Heavy Traffic and the controversial Coonskin, and then switched to fantasy with The Lord of the Rings, Wizards and Fire and Ice. American Pop and Hey Good Lookin' also had fans, and he returned to TV to revive Mighty Mouse in the 1980s.

When the 1990s comeback Cool World was a flop, Bakshi's directing work wound down, and he now concentrates on his paintings, with occasional returns to animation.

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