on March 17, 2004
I only have one thing to add to the other reviews. The DVD version of "Heavy Traffic" has parts of scenes restored that were cut out of the VHS version. Since this is usually a selling point I'm suprised it's not advertised as an un-cut version. Compare the "Maybellene" sequence on VHS and DVD and you'll see what I mean. It's quite a bit more, uh, graphic on the DVD. If you have an old VHS copy and like the movie, getting the DVD is definitely recommended.
on April 15, 2009
Though, I usually watched family-oriented animated films; but I guess, I am like wholesome vs taboo. I first encountered Ralph Bakshi's films when I was a teenager - I don't know how old. I started with "The Lord of The Rings," then "Wizards," that film became my favorite Bakshi film. And then I watched on YouTube : "Fire & Ice," "Cool World" (live action/animated), and this film "Heavy Traffic."
Well anyway, Heavy Traffic is a film which begins, ends, and occasionally combines with live-action, explores the often surreal fantasies of a young New York cartoonist named Michael Corleone, using pinball imagery as a metaphor for inner-city life.
In the film, New York has a diseased, rotten, tough and violent atmosphere. Michael's Italian father, Angelo "Angie" Corleone, is a struggling mafioso who frequently cheats on Michael's Jewish mother, Ida. The couple constantly bickers and try to kill each other. Michael ambles through a catalog of freaks, greasers, and dopers.
Unemployed, he dabbles with cartoons, artistically feeding off the grubbiness of his environment. He regularly hangs out at a local bar where he gets free drinks from the female black bartender, Carole, in exchange for the sketches from the somewhat annoying Shorty, Carole's violent,legless barfly devotee. One of the regular customers at the bar, Snowflake, a nymphomaniac transvestite, who gets beat up by a tough drunk who has only just realized that Snowflake is a man in drag and not a beautiful woman. Shorty throws the drunk out and the bar's white manager abusively confronts Carole over this and she quits. Shorty offers to let Carole stay at his place, but not wanting to get involved with him, Carole tells Shorty that she's staying with Michael, and that they've been "secretly tight for a long time." Michael is turned on by her no-nonsense attitude and strong sense of self-reliance.
This relationship arouses his father's racist fury as well as the jealousy of Shorty. Michael moves out of his parents' house and tries to make a living, often failing...OH! that's all I could tell you folks, you will have to see the film for yourself how it ends.
I like Carole for her sassy, no-nonsense attitude. I love it how she told Michael off, after she told Shorty about her and Michael. So overall, I enjoyed this film, and also the film's soundtrack too, with the sounds of Chuck Berry ('Maybellene') and The Isley Brothers ('Twist & Shout').
on November 29, 2014
A lot of stylized elements in this film, more so than any other Bakshi pic I would say. Yet ironically, it's probably one of Ralph's most 'human' films as well. (possibly a little autobiographical?) Sure, some of the characters are WAY over the top, stereotypical, and violent beyond reason. But there's a sense that it's the perception of Michael throughout trying to make sense of it all. And though it starts off that Michael maybe this unfortunate kid doomed by his surroundings and perceived as a 'geeky virgin'. The viewer quickly learns Michael is fairly comfortable in his own skin, and at ease - if not controlling of his surroundings. And though the pinball segments get a little long and redundant, it reinforces the point that it's all 'controlled chaos'. And that the character of Carol is the (pardon the pun...) 'free ball' that Michael has been given and has to make the most of in the end. And dare I say a rather 'Kubrickian' ending at that. Has Mike and Carol really escaped the imaginary reality that brought them together. Or are about to leave the predictable surroundings for a surreal adventure? And not to sound totally melancholy, but there's a sense of happiness and joy either way for the characters at the end. Didn't think Ralph could ever touch me like that? But in this case, I won't be pressing charges against him. LOL
on October 13, 2003
Like Fritz the Cat and Bakshi's other works, Heavy Traffic moves into city life to show the darker side of America. Bakshi once said in an interview: "If Disney was going to animate for the middle class, I was going to animate for the guy on the street." Heavy Traffic is Bakshi accomplishing that.
The film isn't just a social statement though, it also has a lot of creativity behind that. It opens with the live action version of our main character Michael playing pinball. Michael is a cartoonist, and as he asks questions to himself he slowly dives into his world...a world similar to the one he lives in now, but a caricature of themselves. Michael deals with his crazy mother, corrupt father, a relationship with a girl, and trying to get a job - a hard task as his ideas involve events such as God getting shot in the face with a shotgun.
If you were offended or put off by the brashness of "Fritz the Cat" then you should give Heavy Traffic a try. The nudity and sex is still there, but on a toned down scale. The social satire and goofy humor is still there, and that just makes it all the more a good film.
Bakshi considered this one of the top three best films he did (next to Fritz and Streetfight). It is deservedly so.
on May 31, 2002
Not my favourite Bakshi movie, mind you. That spot will always be reserved for 'Wizards', regardless of how hard the critics panned it (generally the same critics who thought the awful 'Fire and Ice' was great.)
In any event, Heavy Traffic is a more satisfying movie than Fritz the Cat, with which it probably has more in common than any other Bakshi movie. Sure you can always pick holes in Ralph Bakshi's films, but what about the strong points: his gorgeous use of dialogue. The actors sound completely uncoached and spontaneous. I've always thought the dialogue in Bakshi's films up to Wizards was masterful. I could listen to it with the picture turned off.
Heavy Traffic is probably autobiographical in part. At least, if it isn't, Ralph sure went out of his way to make it seem that way. Protagonist is a young cartoonist...
The supporting cast are almost all low-life of one sort or another; losers, psycopaths, bigots, masochistic transvestites, dysfunctional parents, alcoholics, amputees, or a combination of the above. And for the most part they're repellant and irresistable at the same time.
You might have noticed I haven't mentioned the plot. Don't worry about it. The plot isn't the thing. Just immerse yourself in Bakshi's mise-en-scene; the characterisations, the dialogue, the backgrounds, the music, the underlying dirtiness and violence - you've got to just absorp the thing as a whole.
BTW this film has, in my opinion, the most terrifying moment-of-death scene of any movie I've ever seen (also one of the longest, unless you count 'Jacob's Ladder', which is nothing _but_ a moment of death scene.)
Well anyway, I think it's a great adult animated movie. Ugly, dirty, with little socially redeeming value, but if Bakshi's version of Lord of the Rings, or 'Fire and Ice' make you cringe, you might just like this one (alternatively, if for some unfathomable reason you thought his Lord of the Rings was a classic, don't bother with Heavy Traffic. You'll probably hate it.)
on October 12, 2001
I saw this film back in '73 with my best bud, Juan during the time when it was rated "X". I was only 16 but we didn't let that stop us from getting in with a bottle of orange flavored vodka. Hell...if we could score some vodka we sure weren't going to worry about getting into an "X"-rated film. It was the first time I saw an "X" rated anything and the first time I drank alcohol. Not a good idea. About all I remember from the film is a couple of rats going at it on a roof. Then the vodka kicked in and I got sick...repeatedly. It seems that hot-buttered popcorn and orange flavored vodka don't mix very well. Now they tell me! In any event I wound up being so sick that for the next 3 days I couldn't feel any pain (aside from a massive hangover) and I haven't touched vodka since. So if there is a moral to the story....well I haven't figured it out. But after nearly 30 years I thought I'd get the dvd and see how much of it I remember seeing. Yeah, the rats on the roof was all I remember.
on October 15, 2000
I remember very well the effect this film had on me right after leaving the theater; everywhere I looked on the drive home, people looked like cartoons. In Heavy Traffic, animation artist Ralph Bakshi presents us with a look at life in the early 70s (late 60s?), city style .... and this city is gritty, not entirely pretty ....
Michael Corleone (not the only reference to other popular films of the times) scribbles away at his drawing board while his Catholic father and Jewish mother wage Armageddon outside his door. He finds comfort and release seeing the world as an absurd, psychotic cartoon. Pretty much a loner, his main connection to the outside world is a black bargirl named Carol who works right downstairs from him and slips him drinks for his entertaining sketches. An unfortunate incident with a drag queen associate costs Carol her job, and she and Michael end up out on the streets together, since he can't seem to make ANY sort of job situation come together. They form a sort of hustling alliance, with him as her pimp, and they nosedive into dark urban realms of the quick buck and the inevitable personal compromises involved.
All this is interposed with images of live city backdrops and numerous references to a pinball game. Ralph Bakshi's animated vision is a moving work of underground pop art which, despite limitations, was a groundbreaking achievement that pushed the frontiers of American animation thousands of miles. I can see the influence of this film (and Bakshi's work in general) on the likes of Matt Groening, Don Bluth, and yes, even parts of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Heavy Traffic is dark, rude and dangerous. At times it has an almost experimental feel, moving at a stream of consciousness pace more than any conventional narrative. Its portayal of characters is raw and extreme, has an exaggerated sort of believability to it. It also has the feel of a semi-autobiography, with its portayal of a creative misfit struggling against the odds for survival, if not personal validation.
This very personal work goes places other animations of the time wouldn't even consider, was rated X at the time of its original release, and was re-released very shortly afterward in a lightly watered-down R-version. The recent DVD release appears to be a restoration of the original artwork, is a nice clean print, despite the full-frame format and mono soundtrack. It would be nice to see this touched up with a slightly refurbished soundtrack (it IS animation, after all); at the same time the compressed sound lends to the quaint sort of 70s feel to it, creating an air of nostalgia rivaling that of The Iron Giant. And these guys weren't even trying!
My appreciation for this special film has not diminished over the years; indeed, I understand it a bit more as an adult. It captures the dark, skewed out, surrealistic beauty of the urban underbelly, delivers some nasty bellylaughs, shows us the world as an oversized cartoon arcade game, and reminds us that all we can do sometimes is just keep playing that game. Even if we do end up getting our head blown off by a paraplegic midget on a skateboard. This stuff happens .......
on March 10, 2004
This part-live action, part-animated movie from 1973 seemed to get rave reviews, and I was up late one night, so I decided to check it out. But I'm sorry; I just didn't get this movie. I did understand that the main character, Michael, had a hard life and some very dysfunctional (divorced) parents. But then the movie got all twisted. By watching the movie, you can tell that was sort of the point, but it was still weird in that a lot of the scenes and secondary characters didn't seem to have anything to do with each other. Also, the "n" word was thrown around a lot, but I guess I can let that side since it was the '70s. Maybe you have to be drunk to understand this movie or something.
on November 17, 2000
It is about time that studios started looking into their back catalogues and releasing some old gems especially animated ones. This is a surreal reality cartoon from the genius Ralph Bakshi, a blighted but brightly lit urban landscape filled with far out characters. NOT FOR KIDS Now if we could get them to release all of Bakshi's work
Wizards- Fritz the Cat- Fritz the Cat 2- Streetfight- Lord of the Rings- I would especially love to see the short lived but spectacular Mighty Mouse series he did put on dvd! Even todays animated laugh fests on tv don't compare to this mans work.
on July 30, 2013
First I must say that this is one of my favorite films of all time - I was a little worried that it would be the r rated version, but luckily like the dvd it is the fully uncensored X rated original edit!
The bluray is in widescreen aspect ration, a major plus over the dvd and vhs releases - beautiful remaster, still has that dark 70's look but nicely cleaned up. The audio is in glorious original mono which is way better in my opinion than a "fake" 5.1 remix.
No special features, not even a chapter screen - just this beautiful piece of art. Bakshi in all his glory.