This early Paul Mazursky film could well be his finest achievement. Wonderfully mixing irony and affection, it examines bohemian New York in the 50's, its scenes generously filled with the assorted types - from fragile to vicious - who then flocked to Greenwich Village, seeking personal freedom and frequently a career in the arts. Mazursky's knowledge of that time and place is unerring; the pubs, the street life and the character types he presents are accurately, hilariously and, often, movingly drawn. From the frequenters of the San Remo to the Brando imitators at the Actor's Studio, he recreates the aspiring young people of a time long since gone but still fresh in the memories of some persons who were part of it.
A nostalgic invocation of the past, however, is not the film's sole or even chief strength. That honor goes instead to the amazing part of the actor hero's mother brilliantly portrayed by Shelley Winters, clearly in the role of her career. She is the Jewish Mother On Film for all time. Not just a stereotypical devotee of the classic formula - control guilt feelings and you control the child - she is also, surprisingly and freshly, herself a frustrated artist. When she weeps over the radio singing of Jussi Bjorling, vowing to hear him in person at the Met, or unconventionally jitterbugs, mad glint in her eye, with a black gay guy at a Greenwich Village party she crashes, we feel affection for her despite her cluelessness and manipulations. Hers is an unfulfilled life in Brooklyn, for she's bursting with an artist's energy which has no outlet. This becomes the ground of her aspiring actor son's and then our eventual respect and affection for her despite her meddling as the would-be power behind the son's throne. "Next Stop Greenwich Village," all told, is a film of considerable distinction, and it deserves to be far better known.