Thursday, January 7, 2016
THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND is the latest from Ralph Bakshi and its a masterpiece
Visually unique and comparable only to the work of it's director Ralph Bakshi, THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND is a one of a kind artistic triumph. A mix of Bakshi's painting and some of his animated films (COONSKIN, HEY GOOD LOOKING) where photographs and film footage appears as backgrounds this is a film that sucks you in and transports you to its own little world. The film feels as though we are truly locked into the brain of the creator.
I have been a fan of Bakshi since I first discovered him, which was right about the time I stumbled upon FRITZ THE CAT and was, as most teens would be, fascinated by the idea of an X rated cartoon, this was right about the time that his WIZARDS was released. The weird visuals of that film made me sit up and wonder what sort of wild man was loose at the drawing boards of Hollywood.
Of course that despite the love many people had for Bakshi he always seems to be a kind of an outsider with his wild visions getting him the call to come make movies, while at the same time creating problems for him as the money guys freaked out at what he was doing (MIGHTY MOUSE). Worse sometimes the money just wasn't there or ran out (the later episodes of his SPIDERMAN series has Spidey just swinging because they had no money to do new animation.) Despite creating masterpieces at every turn many of his projects ended up disappointing him.
All of which is a long winded way of circling back to THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND. Financed via Kickstarter and available on Vimeo as a rental, the film was largely done by Bakshi alone. He did all of the backgrounds and most of the animation himself which makes this 23 minute gem probably the only one of his films to be exactly what he intended...and it makes you wonder what he could have done with this kind of autonomy all along.
No matter- LAST DAYS exists and that's all that matters.
The film is a jarring disorienting trip to the dark side as we drift back in time to a place truly run down. The images are stark and at times half finished. We can see the pencil lines under the finished images. Outside of the background images and films everything is a cartoon or a garish take on people and places. Watching the film on a big screen in the dark the complete lack of normalcy is jarring. Its hard to know who is talking or what is going on a for several minutes. It seems like a mistake but slowly you realize that you are no longer in your home but in this world of Bakshi's creating.
There was a sense of oppression and heartbreak. This was a world that no one was ever going to escape from. Worse it's a place that seems to be some where past the end. It has the feel of a world that has ended but which no one seemed to notice. I've seen I don't know how many films about the end but this was the first time where it really felt that way. This truly is a kind of post apocalyptic world where freaks and clowns and hoods and cops all mill around. IS anyone man or woman, you can't be sure, Yes they speak one way but visually some women look like men...
I am somewhere beyond words. I am somewhere that is kind of pure emotion. With LAST DAYS Bakshi has made a film that is does what all films should do which it move your heart and move your head. Its film that forces you to think and feel- even if you hate the film I'm guessing you'll have a great deal as why you don't like it.
It is a cinematic masterpiece from a cinematic master who at last finally gets his complete vision on the screen.
An absolute must see for any film/animation or art lover worth their salt.
The film can be rented here.