Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Izzint this supposed to be one of those mooms that Liz 'n Dick would fly in from London to go see with all the rest of the chic set doing a little slumming in Bohotown? Well, it kinda looks as if it would be, or better yet maybe what some suburban Long Island teenagers woulda wanted to cop on their trip to En Why See just so's they could tell their friends what they did on their last wild exploits into the Big Turd other'n watch alla the freakos who got to go into Max's Kansas City while these poor children shivered out inna cold. Yeah, CHAFED ELBOWS is that tied into the whole mid-six-oh concept of hotcha underground gulcher art and films (and even earned a berth on Parker Tyler's list of top underground films), and given that I can easily enough be a sucker for some of the ginchiest slices of whateveritis passing for art back then I sure didn't pass up the opportunity to latch onto a Dee-Vee-Dee of this 'un courtesy of because...really, I haven't had that much of an opportunity to spend my Christmas money, and time's a' wastin'!

In a genre of bizarro filmmaking CHAFED ELBOWS is a strangie true, but not that much different from a whole buncha other weird films that were playing the hipster circuit back during those days when the underground seemed to be bubbling up into the mainstream at least to the point where the gathered readership of LIFE woulda been tuned into this as much as those of FILM CULTURE. And yeah, like most other avant garde underground films of the sixties (with the strange exception of the Kuchar brothers' works) CHAFED ELBOWS is very dated, with a load of gimmicks and techniques (not to mention now-obscure asides and LBJ pokes whenever the mood arises) that anyone who woulda tuned into NBC's EXPERIMENTS IN TELEVISION a few years later would have gotten their fair share of. In fact, next to the works of Warhol and the Kuchars CHAFED ELBOWS comes off rather commercial as in it could have been stuck on any arthouse bill along with the rest of those indecipherable foreign films that we're all supposed to like if we want to be part of the chattering class. To which I say cinematic art is a load of hooey and if I want to experience something that is closer to my own frame of suburban aesthetics there's always The Bowery Boys or better yet that weird home movie my mother shot of me and my cousin in front of the school running just so's there'd be some action in it!

But in my own weird way I kinda liked CHAFED ELBOWS maybe because of the En Why See locale (amidst the spoofing of spoof and fancy camera angles it's got that cool NAKED CITY/CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? feeling!) that sorta mutated into Retch City by the time the eighties rolled around but then again alla those faggots and VILLAGE VOICE types were asking for it anyway. The typical mid-sixties "avant garde" style of filmmaking isn't that much of a hindrance either, and ya gotta remember that back when this was made such things as the use of LA JETTEE-esque picture stills wasn't as hackneyed as it would be by the time such techniques were being used in grade school anti-drug film strips. And I guess that director Robert Downey Sr. really did have a good head on his shoulders because you can actually feel that an underground film of this caliber was just the right ticket into the legit bigtime movie making biz. And yeah, even with the entire flaky premise and execution I guess I can enjoy CHAFED ELBOWS the same way I like bad things, not to say that CHAFED ELBOWS is "so bad its good" but because its sour "social commentary" and chintzy gimmickry did kinda entertain me the same way those PBS low-budget afternoon classroom dramas did throughout the seventies and eighties.

The plot, more or less, has to do with some really Irish looking guy who falls in love with his haggy mother and gets into a whole slew of weird adventures across New York including delivering potato salad to a Bar Mitzvah and making it on the roof with some woman he found hiding under the table, recording a hit single dealing with sado masochism a good decade before that became hip twaddle, acting in an art film as a cop and getting his cousin pregnant (not in that order either!). And yeah, it comes off about as mawkish and as grey as I've described it, but then again being an arrested adolescent I guess that I am amused in the strangest ways possible. Maybe a twice-in-my-lifetime watch, which is more than I can say about a few other art flicks that never did light my pilot. Now can anyone bother to interest me in a little feature out there called HALLELUJAH THE HILLS?

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