18 March 2006 | Sturgeon54
Maybe I Interpreted It Wrong, But....
It seems to me this movie, for all its show-offy experimentalism, is really an allegory about the creative/artistic process. A prophetic Elijah-like old man emerges from Lake Michigan, igniting the obsession of a sculptor of progressive artwork who is down on his luck to try and find him. Ditching his pregnant girlfriend after an illegal abortion, he enlists the help of his jive-talking pickpocket friend to look for the old man through various parts of Chicago.
The old man probably has the least amount of screen time of any character, and yet remains a rebellious, mischievous muse that the sculptor desperately searches for. Like the prototypical artist, the sculptor heedlessly disregards his financial security (giving away his valuable artwork to his friend) and his relationships in his quest for the inspiration of something new and original.
The on-location cinema-verite filming of unusual locations of Chicago circa-1965 is stunning, especially when few films from the period showcase that city (director Kaufman in his director's commentary states that Chicago was virtually off the map for filming movies at the time). The visual and aural non-sequiturs are decent, but it's the improvisational energy provided by the director and his cast which make the movie worth watching. Ben Carruthers, as the pickpocket, is especially engaging virtually every time he's on screen - it's surprising that he never became a bigger star than he eventually did. Like many debut films, the movie leaves a lot to be desired that better connections and budgets could have provided, but it also shows the intelligent creativity of Philip Kaufman which would be on display in his many later films.