AMERICAN POP, 1981
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
Voices by: Ron Thompson, Mews Small
Review by The Movie Whore
The story of four generations of a Russian Jewish family of musicians parallels the history of American popular music in the 20th century.
Have you ever wanted to travel through time and watch the evolution of American Popular Music, well the movie American Pop is the closest will ever come to achieving just that. This is brought to by Ralph Bakshi. This is the man that brought us Fritz the Cat, Wizards and the 1978 animated version of Lord of the Rings. This manís name is revered in the animated film world, at least be the geeks like me that love this kind of stuff.
Our story begins with the Belinsky family fleeing a Czar ruled Russia and coming to the United States. Zalmie, a child becomes infatuated with the music coming from a burlesques house. He teams up with Louie in handing out flyers to make sure every show is a sellout. Zalmie has other talents other than those of a barker. He can sing. Louie manages Zalmie all the to a USO show during WWI wear Zalmie gets shot in the throat. Though he survives his chances of becoming a star as a singer are gone forever.
He falls in love with a beautiful woman and gets her pregnant. The only way he can make an honest woman of her and raise a family is to go to work for the Mob. His son Benny is quite the talents piano player and his father longs for him to record his music and become the star his father never was. When he refuses he is asked instead to marry the daughter of the Mob boss. Benny then leaves his wife and child to go fight in WWII. When Benny dies, his son Tony is left with the family legacy.
Tony is a songwriter. He canít sing or play an instrument but he can write songs. The band he writes music for is just about to make it big and the Belinsky family is about to have their day in the sun when Frankie, Tonyís girlfriend overdoses on drugs and dies. This sends Tony hitchhiking across the country.
Years before Tony had spent open night in Kansas, one special night with one special girl. When he returns to Kansas he meets Little Pete who reminds him of that girl. With no family of his own he tags along with Tony for the next few years. During that time he gets an education of the street. He learns how to become a drug dealer.
The other thing Little Pete learned from Tony was how to write a song. After 3 years keeping a band in cocaine he tells them he wants them to listen to just one of his songs. Will the band say yes?
Will Pete be the first of his family to finally make it?
Watch and find out. Bakshi really does an incredible job at taking you back in time and shows you the trials of each generation. His journey begins in the 1890ís and ends in 1981. We get images of Vaudeville, Jazz, Spoken Word, Folk Music, Psychadellic, early eighties Rock and Roll.
It is rare that I come across a movie that is filled with a story and characters that draw me in so completely that after watching it I feel inspired to share this movie with everyone I know. You actually find yourself caring and hoping for each generation of the Belinskyís to make it.
After being denied a budget increase for American Pop, Bakshi opted to use rotoscoping to make the film. He had had to finish Wizards using the animation technique.
From Wikipediea: Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films.
This decision served him well. The film is visually beautiful and at times you almost forget it is animated. If you love music and film then American Pop is 100% guaranteed to satisfy. Well kids have a good one and go watch American Pop, now.
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