On the Bowery (1956) 720p

Movie Poster
On the Bowery (1956) - Movie Poster
Genres:
Documentary | Drama
Resolution:
960*720
Size:
597.91M
Quality:
720p
Frame Rate:
23.976 fps
Language:
English 2.0  
Run Time:
65 min
IMDB Rating:
7.4 / 10 
MPR:
Add Date:

Downloaded:
427
Seeds:
11
Peers:
2
Directors: Lionel Rogosin [Director] ,


Movie Description:
At the time of this film, the Bowery was a neighborhood in New York City populated largely by the down and out, and largely by transients. Those that can work generally can only find short term employment on a day to day basis, their daily earnings which primarily go into booze. Those that can't or won't work generally sponge off whoever they can, especially for that next drink. New to the neighborhood is Ray, who most recently had been working the rails in New Jersey. He is one of those who can and still does work, but like the others spends what little money he has on booze, which means he usually sleeps on the streets in a drunken stupor. The only person he would probably consider a friend in the neighborhood is the elderly Gorman, who in turn takes advantage of his new friend at whatever opportunity. When he's sober, Ray understands that alcohol is ruining his life, and as such states that he will try to stop drinking. The questions become whether Ray has either the will or the support necessary to fulfill this goal, or whether he is destined to become another Gorman and the legions like Gorman in the Bowery. —Huggo

Screenshots

  • On the Bowery (1956) - Movie Scene 1
  • On the Bowery (1956) - Movie Scene 2
  • On the Bowery (1956) - Movie Scene 1

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Reviews

Not really a documentary

The film sells itself as a documentary. It is really a film of re-enactments and scripted moments. I do not deny that they used real "bums" in this film, but they are conscious of the camera and the words that they say seem to follow a specific storyline. The big giveaway that this is not a natural documentary are all the camera angles used...there are several different ways single scenes were shot that signifies a camera setup had to be changed during the filming of the scene. Of course, the biggest distraction were the inserted close-ups of the men...it meant that a camera was shoved right in front of their faces...they had to be quite aware that they were being filmed...and thus, a documentary filmaker would no longer get reality.

The Road Less Traveled

As I read the admiring comments about this movie, I find myself confused. Yes, this is an excellent documentary -- and the question of whether some scenes may have been staged bothers me less than it does another commenter. Yet, good as it is, this sort of documentary did not spring newborn from the mind of Lionel Rogosian, like Athena from Zeus' brow. There are clear antecedents, like the photography of Walker Evans and even movies like Boris Kaufman's LES HALLES CENTRALES (1927).

In many ways it is a remake of the 1941 Passing Parade short THIS IS THE BOWERY, without the voice over commentary. Instead, it reserves its commentary to its cinematic choices: the editing that cuts faster and faster as arguments rage and the uncredited photographer, who carefully composed and key lit portrait shots that scream "This is a human being", Film is a medium that can lie or tell the truth twenty-four times a second, but which lies or truths the film maker chooses to tell.... that's the real point.

Having thus demonstrated my learnedness and balance as a film critic, let me turn again and note that such issues are irrelevant. A movie is made for an audience, and how would this movie strike its audience, who probably could not recall having ever seen anything like it before? Like a thunderbolt. This sort of cinema vérité film making was something usually seen in post-war Italian movies where the producer couldn't afford a studio. To see it applied to reality in the United States was devastating and changed documentary film-making permanently. At least, until the next new and greatest thing came along.

Striking record of off-grid life 55 years ago

This movie must have seemed very startling to audiences at the time, when "homelessness" wasn't yet a concept (only the somewhat more abstract, accusatory "bums" or "winos").

Like many "documentaries" made before the 1960s, when a more purist approach was introduced, it is partly staged and acted, albeit by nonprofessional principals who were purportedly playing themselves, surrounded on real locations by real people who clearly aren't following any script. Thus the line between staged drama, improv and documentary is thoroughly blurred.

You could call this falsification by strict verite standards, but that would deny "In the Bowery's" extraordinary capture of a particular underside that mainstream society (let alone movies) preferred to ignore until the 60s myriad social-change movements focused more attention on the urban poor and disenfranchised.

The loose "story" focuses on ruggedly handsome thirtysomething ex-railroad worker Ray. He lands in NYC, buys drinks for some Bowery drunks, passes out on the street and has his threadbare suitcase of possessions stolen by Gorman, the one who'd befriended him. Ray does day-laboring gigs, attends a rescue mission sermon, sleeps at a charity flophouse (where most sleep on newspapers on the floor) and tries to avoid the demon alcohol--but he free-falls nonetheless.

It's worth reading the Wikipedia article about the movie, which offers a number of interesting facts about its creation and reception. (It won a Venice Fest award and an Oscar nomination, though the unflattering if poignant expose of Skid Row also got it attacked by the New York Times and other significant voices.) Supposedly Ray Salyer was "offered a Hollywood contract but chose to remain on the Bowery"--which sounds just-possible, but also unlikely enough to require further proof.

This is a unique and striking memento of a disappeared world (though the issues remain very relevant--only the neighborhoods and racial mix have changed).
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