• Next Stop, Greenwich Village



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Release date: May 22, 2018
    Directed by: Paul Mazursky
    Cast: Lenny Baker, Shelley Winters, Ellen Greene, Christopher Walken, Lois Smith, Antonio Fargas, Dori Brenner, Lou Jacobi, Mike Kellin, Michael Egan, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Spinell, Bill Murray
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    In 1953, a young Jewish man, Larry Lipinsky (Lenny Baker), dreams of becoming a famous actor in Hollywood. To help him achieve his goals, he moves out of his parents’ Brooklyn, New York apartment and into the liberal enclave of Greenwich Village, where most of his friends reside. This act upsets his domineering and over-protective mother, Fay (Shelley Winters), who sees his move as a defiance of family tradition and familial bonds. In Greenwich, he hangs with his girlfriend, Sarah (Ellen Greene), who refuses to marry him and aborts their baby when she gets pregnant; Connie (Dori Brenner), who has a secret crush on him; Bernstein (Antonio Fargas), a black man who also happens to be gay and out; Anita (Lois Smith), a depressive always threatening to kill herself; and Robert (Christopher Walken), a laidback poet who likes to push boundaries regardless of the outcome. The group has its ups and downs, with Anita’s death hitting its members pretty hard. And when Larry throws an apartment-warming “rent” party, his parents’ unexpected arrival throws things into disarray. Things begin to look up again when Larry gets a callback on an audition, but his girlfriend’s relationship with another member of the group causes additional problems.

    Irwin Lawrence Mazursky began his career when, in his early 20s, he was cast in Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film, Fear and Desire (1953), for which he changed his first name to Paul and dropped the Lawrence. He followed it up two years later playing a juvenile delinquent in Richard Brooks’ The Blackboard Jungle. His career then moved into television, where he had mostly minor roles in a variety of programs before turning his attention to directing with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (also available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time and reviewed by Rock! Shock! Pop!). It was as director that he found his greatest fame, making such critical and/or commercial hits as Harry and Tonto (1974), An Unmarried Woman (1978), Moscow on the Hudson (1984; also released by Twilight Time and reviewed by R!S!P), and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). After his directorial career ended, he returned to acting with a recurring role on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and a vocal part in Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011).

    Next Stop, Greenwich Village is among Mazursky’s strongest work, in part because of his obviously emotional connection to the subject matter. Arthur J. Ornitz’s camerawork is as intimate as Mazursky’s script and the performances themselves, frequently reveling in actors’ facial expressions as a means of transmitting emotive timbre. While all the performances are good, Shelley Winters, Lenny Baker, and Mike Kellin offer particularly realistic and heartfelt portrayals of a Jewish family in flux as the son exerts his newfound ‘muscle,’ the mother reacts by breaking down, and the husband flinches and attempts to look away. That the film is semi-autobiographical is made all the more apparent in the way Mazursky details little honesties: Bernstein’s dance with Fay; Larry’s physically abusive outburst at learning of Sarah’s affair; Anita’s depressed but very loud and obvious calls for help; a drama coach’s lofty and ridiculous critical discussion of his student’s ‘acting’… Mazursky’s characters feel as if they were breathing even before the actors fleshed them out; that the actors do so in such a believable and relatable fashion only brings that fact home.

    Three months after its theatrical release in the United States in February 1976, Next Stop, Greenwich Village was placed into competition at the 29th Cannes Film Festival, losing the Palme D’Or to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. (The Jury consisted of such notable people as Tennessee Williams, Jean Carzou, Charlotte Rampling, and Mario Vargas Llosa.)

    It should also be noted that Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and Joe Spinell have small parts in the film, though all display the acting chops that would lead to much bigger roles in the future.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time presents Mazursky’s masterpiece in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC encode. Placed on a BD50 in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the film has never looked better, perfectly conveying a physically dreary and color-challenged New York City of the 1950s with striking detail. Look no further than Lenny’s occasional sports jacket or winter coat for lines so fine you can almost count threads. Brick buildings, occasional foliage, imperfect apartment walls, litter-lined sidewalks, and neglected streets… The image is so beautiful and realistic, it feels as if you could step through your television screen and into the 1950s, a period so well replicated—with just that right touch of 1970s somberness—that it surely must have influenced later films in a similar vein from Woody Allen. (It also bears more than a passing resemblance to some of Merchant Ivory’s lesser-known works in its approach to storytelling and character development.) Colors are intentionally muted to reflect the sedate fall atmosphere, but when colors other than earthy browns and grays do appear, they look magnificent. Skin tones are fleshy and realistic, and the image is so pristine that one is hard-pressed to spot so much as a white speck. Perfectly resolved grain, nicely modulated black and gray levels, and a complete lack of artificial “noise” results in video that’s about as close to perfect as a Blu-ray can come.

    The audio is just as good as the video. Twilight Time has seen fit to bless fans with no less than four audio tracks. The primary soundtrack is offered in two formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. There are no problems with either track, though this viewer preferred the slightly more robust 2.0 track. While Mazursky does utilize music to good effect (particularly the occasional opera rendition), it never interferes with his characters’ dialogue, which is always clear and discernible. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, TT has provided large, white English subtitles. The third track is music only, a fitting addition to showcase how beautifully music is used in the film. Finally, the fourth track is a commentary from Mazursky himself, ported over from a previous DVD release. Given the gusto with which historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo approached their commentary for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, it’s a shame they didn’t provide their own commentary here. Regardless, hearing Mazursky discuss his best film on his own terms, without the distraction of participating actors and/or other crew, is a delight. Not that at least one of those actors doesn’t appear on the commentary; Ellen Greene recorded her commentary separately, after which a judicious edit brought the two perfectly together for the benefit of listeners. Mazursky begins by discussing his own background and how it impacted the film, which was shot in 1975; where it fits in his oeuvre; how he came to cast Lenny Baker; the other cast members and what they bring to the table; the on-location shooting (the place where Mazursky lived; a gay bar doubling as a gay-friendly straight bar, etc.); and so much more, but woe be it for us to spoil it any further for fans. Greene’s commentary is more focused on her character and scenes. Both Mazursky and Greene come to their parts with prepared remarks rather than simply reacting to what they see on screen. During moments of silence, the film’s primary soundtrack is raised to fill the void. This happens rarely and is usually done to focus listeners’ attention on specific dialogue.

    Also included is the original theatrical trailer, running 2:17.

    Finally, there’s an 8-page booklet containing images from the film and its promotion as well as liner notes by the incomparable Julie Kirgo, who waxes nostalgic over the film’s many and incontrovertible virtues, digesting its many aspects and dissecting its notable characters. As ever, Kirgo’s writing is beautifully structured, her phrases perfectly chosen to carefully convey the ideas she so well confers upon her readers. She ends with a poignant anecdote about her mother’s reaction to the film, revealing just how real Mazursky’s picture was and is, not only to those who grew up in a milieu similar to that painted by the great director, but to everyone who has ever wanted more out of life or simply known another human being. In other words, all of us.

    Per Twilight Time’s usual practice, Next Stop, Greenwich Village is limited to 3,000 units. The disc is region free and contains a list of heretofore released BDs from the company, clearly demarcating those that have since gone into moratorium.

    The Final Word:

    Next Stop, Greenwich Village is a masterwork, the best film from its noted director, Paul Mazursky. Twilight Time’s release, while light on extras, features a superlative transfer and terrific sound, and it ports over a previous commentary from Mazursky himself. Now that it’s available in hi-def, there’s really no other way to watch it, and if one hasn’t seen it before, this is the best way to see it for the first time.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I caught this on television when I was in Mexico of all places. I'd never heard of it before; it's fantastic.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      I wasn't familiar with it (other than the title) before I got the Blu-ray to review... and I'm so glad I got to see it. After having watched it once straight and then once for the commentary, I popped it back in just to get a better handle on the image... and got sucked into it all over again.