17 April 2008 | noir guy
Offbeat 1970 NY-set character study resembles its central character too closely and is therefore something of a cop-out.
This offbeat 1970 NY-set character study resembles its central character too closely and is therefore something of a cop-out. Jonathan (Jordan ANGEL, ANGEL DOWN WE GO Christopher) is a lazy Princeton graduate who earns what he describes as 'an easy living' driving a NY taxi 'Because I want to show the world the back of my neck'. Together with his frustrated virginal ex-army pal Winston (Robert Walden), he lives an aimless existence disinterestedly weaving his cab through the often traffic-clogged city streets, drifting through loveless and seemingly joyless no-strings sexual encounters and occasionally chasing pigeons before embarking on a tentative relationship with his new neighbour, college drop-out Jennifer (Jill O'Hara, in her only film appearance) who - in counterculture era drop-out fashion - is trying to find herself. But can Jonathan discover true happiness in his own backyard or is he destined to forever fly free like the pigeons he casts sidelong glances at and occasionally tries to kick? Although this ticks many of the early 70s cinema boxes (there are the obligatory party scenes, generation-gap themes, swishy kaftan-wearing homosexuals, casual sexual encounters, characters bonding during a rooftop pot-smoking session, grungy wintry locations, ghastly woozy love songs warbling away on the soundtrack, a self-loathing misanthropic anti-hero and even a somewhat out-of-place car chase), the sum of the parts don't ultimately add up to a particularly satisfying whole. This is due in no small part to its smug central character whose inner monologues tend to resemble a series of clichéd and generally unfunny observations (e.g. 'It's OK to be homely, lady, but you're abusing the privilege' - which is one of the better zingers on offer) and whose selfish behaviour is most likely inherited (he has a similarly solipsistic mother still pining for her late husband and a lecherous and unfeeling stepfather) but don't really give the film the emotional or dramatic heft of the same year's far superior FIVE EASY PIECES. However, there are a few residual pleasures in those grungy wintry Big Apple locations, a catchy electronic central theme and the window cracked open on a vanished era that may have mostly existed through the refracted lens of a movie camera rather than in actuality. And it's a real obscurity that seems to have virtually vanished following its original release in its longer-titled full-length form and subsequent re-release in the retitled and abridged (86 minutes) form as PIGEONS that I viewed thanks to its apparent one-off appearance on UK TV in the mid-90s. The current scarcity factor alone makes it a must for 'Cinema Obscura' buffs.