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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lenny Bruce defies them all, 15 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Lenny [DVD] (DVD)
"Lenny", played by Dustin Hoffman, with Valerie Perrine and directed by Bob Fosse, is the story of Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925-1966), better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, a Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in New York state history.

The film/DVD will undoubtedly still shock people as the original Lenny Bruce did and some may even question the film's rating of fifteen for the same reasons.

It is, undoubtedly, a sad tale, a comedian with the ability successfully to entertain audiences with that typically Jewish humour we know from Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Shecky Greene, Red Buttons, Milton Berle and many others but he was not content with that. He pushed his humour far into foul-mouthed satire and social criticism of an extreme variety (as he saw it) and fell foul of the authorities. Unable to prevent himself, determined to assert the right to perform, misguided, in an alcoholic and drug induced haze or just pig-headed (and the film presents all of these, and other motivations at times) he pursues a path that until "One last four-letter word for Lenny: Dead. At forty. That's obscene."

Hoffman played him to perfection and, despite his unattractive features (Bruce not Hoffman), managed to elicit sympathy; the character was ideal for Hoffman, the determined and driven underdog, and he shows why he is now one of the cinemas most respected actors.

The 1974 black-and-white film obviously drew the crowds to the tune of an $11 million gross. It was screened or awarded at the BAFTA Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Golden Globes and Oscar Academy Awards. The b/w made remastering it easier and the DVD quality is very good; somehow, the b/w seems to set it clearly in its time and reinforce its age.

Not everyone's evening's entertainment and certainly NOT family viewing, it will present thinking adults with a great deal to consider, e.g. changing styles of humour, "rights" of comedians, social commentators and satarists to stretch the boundaries of acceptability, authorities' duties to determine a socially acceptable line and maintain it, what drives individuals like Bruce to use/misuse/abuse lives in the way he did and others do and so on. Many comedians, in public performances, still stretch the boundaries, e.g. Billy Connolly has always sworn copiously in live performances, although he avoids it on television and even the popular and mild-manner Michael Macintyre changes his deliveries for live audiences. However, Bruce was in another "linguistic and observation league" altogether, as the film shows clearly.
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