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on 13 May 2016
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 November 2011
"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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on 13 November 2007
For a film that's over 30 years old, this looks great. What helps matters is that it's black and white, which is easier to clean up in the post production process. Really though, it looks like it could have been filmed last year. Dustin Hoffman channels Lenny Bruce in a film directed by Bob Fosse. Yes it's a weird thing, there's no denying that. Bob Fosse, who was better known for his choreography (Chicago, Cabaret), turned to directing as another outlet of his creative forces. As for Hoffman, looking at his body of work makes this role in particular standout. I'm surprised that he chose to play Bruce, an outspoken, angry man. After all, Hoffman is usually more the weirdo or mealy-mouthed villain. Then again, what was Bruce if not a slightly weird guy, who ultimately was shy except when he inhabited the stage.

Lenny Bruce was the driving force behind making comedy into the socially challenging medium it is today. The structure is episodes of his life tied together with commentary from his agent, his wife (played by Valerie Perrine), and other important characters in his life. Lenny was one of the original dirty mouthed comedians, but with a point. He was taking on the establishment, and the hypocrisy of contemporary society. He was arrested and tried several times on obscenity charges, for things like using the word c**sucker during a public performance. He also had a problem with drug abuse, largely due to the influence of his addict wife. She was a headline stripper when they met, and he was a young comedian. Bruce died never really seeing the fruits of his passion.

Fosse was an accomplished director, managing to channel some mavericks of his own in the direction of this movie. With its loose cutting style and drifting camera, the film at points feels like a Cassavete's film and this style works perfectly with the subject matter. Because of this, Lenny has a pure authenticity that's impossible to shake. There never feels like a false moment and Hoffman is particularly great (he was nominated for this role.) All of Lenny's acts are performed nearly verbatim, and all the court and interview transcripts are pulled from his life. Given that Bruce was a man under constant surveillance while he performed, so that the recordings could be used against him in court, allowing these same words to redeem him is Lenny's greatest accomplishment. Even if he doesn't know it, Lenny was right all along. I honestly enjoyed this film and like to thank JoeyD. for recommend it to me.
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on 24 October 2002
Lenny Bruce was a complex and troubled individual. In many ways he symbolised the paradoxes of the sixties. He longed for freedom but wound up addicted to substances, he wanted sexual liberation yet he was mysoginistic and immature in his attitudes to women, he spoke his mind, but in the land of the free, was constantly in trouble with the law for the things he said.
Lenny's words still have the power to shock in this masterful biopic and Dustin Hoffman shows again why he is one of the most versatile and well-loved character actors of our time. Though he may not be the great comendic talent that Bruce was, this grossly under-rated film is not just about stand-up and Hoffman's understanding of the real Lenny Bruce on and off-stage make 'Lenny' a fascinating look into the life and times of the ground-breaking comic.
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on 6 August 2015
Fosse's best film. So classy, artistic and deep. Hoffman in a lifetime performance. A free style that yet doesn't keep us detached from the drama of the character and makes us watch and feel his life and tragically powerful, passionate and self-destructive spirit like we're watching through his eyes, mind and memories.
The use of B/W, editing, a photography that catches details and body or expression like passing by, backed by cool jazz music (Miles Davis tracks do 50% of the job) is really unique and looks beautiful on blu ray
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 November 2016
What Bob Fosse’s 1974 biopic of taboo-breaking stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce may lack in terms of cinematic innovation, it makes up for as an important social statement of the times (essentially, the 1960s). Perhaps worryingly, even though one would like to think that times have moved on substantially in the intervening period, some of Fosse, writer Julian Barry and Bruce’s own observations on the hypocrisy of authority figures (politicians, police, church, judiciary), particularly relating to sexual matters, appear to be just as relevant over half a century later! Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal as Bruce was (rightly, IMO) nominated for the best actor Oscar and his cheeky chappie turned passionate social commentator (and thence, 'attorney’ for his own defence) is never more effective than when he is ridiculing the judiciary (to the amusement of onlookers) during the film’s later court-room sequences.

Fosse’s film scores particularly well, courtesy of Bruce Surtees’ black-and-white (at times quasi-documentary style) cinematography, in its evocation of the cheap, seedy night-club scene in which Bruce plies his trade, the mood also being enhanced by Miles Davis’ superbly sultry version of It Never Entered My Mind playing on the soundtrack. Dramatically, the heart of the film is the alternately exuberant and self-destructive relationship between Lenny and Valerie Perrine’s sassy, warm-hearted stripper Honey – if anything, Perrine, with this moving performance, was even more deserving of her Oscar nomination than Hoffman. Structurally, the series of interviews of main protagonists, with flashbacks, is relatively conventional cinematic fare, but it does allow the likes of Jan Miner to shine as Lenny’s mother, Sally (there is particularly funny scene, playing up the family’s Jewish heritage, with Lenny’s archaic aunt).

Despite Lenny and Honey’s obviously deeply felt love for one another, their drug-fuelled, law-breaking life trajectory has an inevitability about it and Fosse’s film is far from being a barrel of laughs. As a piece of social commentary, though, with much to say about still relevant subjects such as censorship, unbending social protocol, persecution, press manipulation, subversion and even prison rehabilitation, as well as (of course) documenting the life of a 60s icon, Fosse’s film provides an important snapshot of the times.
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on 8 May 2015
My knowledge of Lenny before watching this was only average and not expecting much the film surpassed my expectations. Dustin Hoffman is right at home playing Lenny and there is good support from Valerie Perrine. The ending seemed rather abrupt but otherwise a solid biopic. 3 1/2 stars.
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on 3 October 2014
Never seen this before and was too overly familiar with Lenny Bruce. The film changed all that! Dustin H at his best and a worthwile couple of hours I am glad I sepnt wathing it!
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on 24 April 2012
I don't find Lenny Bruce funny. There, I said it. He was necessary and important and all sorts of other words, and I'm glad he came along, and I'm sorry he had such a tough time of it, but I love standup, and he isn't someone I can listen to. His tone is annoying, his material boring, and he just doesn't raise a smile. Maybe it's me, or maybe his material has been copied, improved on, and the times have changed so much that he is just no longer relevant. In fact, the funniest thing I know about Lenny Bruce is the Peter Cook story about when Lenny came to perform at Cook's Establishment club. Cook was excited at having Lenny turn up, but Bruce was a wreck who got evicted from his hotel, and ended up staying with Cook. Cook was trying to keep him out of trouble, so when Bruce said he wanted heroin, Cook went out to look for some. He trawled round everyone he knew, but couldn't get hold of any. Eventually he returned, exhausted, after a night of touring dodgy London spots looking for heroin, and admitted he couldn't get any. "Alright," said Bruce, "what about some chocolate?"

Unfortunately, and unforgivably for a film portraying a story about a magnetic, exciting, funny comedian, watching the stage routines on "Lenny" are quite boring, which is the polar opposite of how it must have been (whichever side of the fence you were on regarding whether he should be allowed to perform or not). This is not Hoffman's fault - he is impeccable. He absolutely nails it - the mannerisms, the speech, the essence. He's perfect. The fault is the material, which just didn't work for me. I couldn't connect with it.

The story itself is a sad tale, although maybe I'd have loved this more when I was younger. Watching him push all the judge's buttons trying to clear himself, watching his constant arguing, even when threatened with contempt of court, I think the teenage me would have been railing at the injustice of it all. But I was watching it thinking "Shut the hell up, you idiot!" I guess that might have been the title of the film in some ways - not that he was an idiot, of course, but because his talking was what got him in such trouble all the time, hounded by the police every time he opened his mouth. It seems so tragic that he was persecuted so much for views that don't even seem shocking at all fifty years later. And I guess he was one of the main reasons for that - it took people like that to move things on. Maybe that makes him a villain - maybe a hero. I guess there's still debate on that.

The film looks great, is an important story, and has a remarkable performance at the heart of it. I just couldn't connect with it, and it had all the excitement and resonance of a history lesson.
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on 15 July 2013
I knew Lenny Bruce, knew this guy who shocked the public with his dirty words and was put in jail for it, but the figure of Lenny disappointed me: after a while the only thing he did was complaining about the system, slamming the public with a serie of all his trials: dates and places and words. That's not amusing, that's realy very boring. Not Hoffman his fault of course, but never the less. Okay to discover the figure of Lenny Bruce, but that's all.
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