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LENNY, 1974
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  MOVIE POSTERLENNY, 1974
Movie Reviews

Director: Bob Fosse

Stars: Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine

Review by Russell Hill

SYNOPSIS:

The life of the controversial stand-up comic is explored in detail.

REVIEW:

I only knew about this film because it starred Dustin Hoffman. Released at a time when Hoffman was in constant demand and starring in one great role after another, Lenny somehow passed me by. However, after watching it relatively recently, I was very glad that I had seen it.

Lenny Bruce (Hoffman) is a celebrated comic but is very controversial. Exploring phrases and subjects which other comics stay clear of, Lenny is not afraid to talk about what is on his mind. Accompanying Lenny during the early part of his career is his wife Honey Bruce (Perrine) who raises even more eyebrows by taking off her clothes. Lenny is frequently reprimanded for his outrageous behaviour, especially as he is charged with breaking the Obscenity Act on many occasions. Will Lenny change his ways or continue doing stand-up however he wants?

Hoffman is remarkable as Lenny Bruce. It isn't surprising that he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar because he is very convincing as the late-comic. His relationship with Honey is also well-executed. Played by Valerie Perrine, who would later appear in Superman: The Movie (1978) as Miss Teschmacher, she is remarkable and impressed French audiences where she won the Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in the following year. Their on-screen relationship is very convincing and shows that, when she is acting alongside a true Hollywood great, she is more than capable of holding her own.

Looking back on what Lenny was renowned for, he doesn't seem that shocking. He swears like a sailor after too much rum but this has become the norm for comics. What Lenny Bruce helped contemporary comics to do is to not worry about swearing or tackling controversial content because they might be arrested.

It was a very good idea for the director, Bob Fosse, to use black and white film stock because it matches the content which can be shocking at times. The grimy conditions which Bruce worked in seem to mirror the films appearance. There are many shots which show the audience reacting to what Lenny has to say and at no point does Fosse condescend the audience because he gives them the opportunity to come to their own conclusion about Bruce's talent.

Outside of the US, Lenny Bruce is a comic who might not be well-known. However, what Lenny succeeds in is demonstrating that he was an underrated genius.

ACTORBob Fosse
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ACTORDustin Hoffman
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ACTORValerie Perrine
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ACTORJan Miner
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ACTORStanley Beck
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ACTORFrankie Man
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ACTORRashel Novikoff
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ACTORGary Morton
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LENNY, 1974