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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bakshi Review: Coonskin (1975)

Plot: While planning to escape from prison, a young man is told the updated version of the classic "Uncle Remus" meant for the seventies. Heavy use of satire to blast away through stereotypes.

Virtues: This film has the funniest and most blistering satire in all of Bakshi's films. Like the rest of Ralph Bakshi's ventures, it has an element of truth about humanity in it. It shows mankind as a group of swindlers, pushers, and prejudiced morons (not that far off from reality). It has a cast of strong characters. Brother Rabbit is a clever, manipulative mastermind. Preacher Fox is the false preacher, full of false piety all the while ready to make a few good bucks. Brother Bear is the everyman, the average black man who simply wants to live his life. It has beautiful animation attached to some wonderfully poignant and hilarious scenes. A highlight is a scene by Mark Kausler where a cockroach leaves a woman he loves because he can't support her. This was meant as a tribute to the archy and mehitabel stories, illustrated by Creole cartoonist George Herriman. It was also drawn in Herriman's style. The use of live-action backgrounds give authenticity to the urban feel of the film. The story is now more connected, centered around the three characters adjusting to the city and finally taking out the Godfather. What some have deemed as racist about this movie are indeed its strongest. it forces everybody who views it to confront the ugly stereotypical imagery of America's past head on. It uses the weapon of caricature, one of the tools of animation, as a satirical weapon with a savage bite.

Vices: While this film has a more connected story, it still has a disjointed feeling about it. It tries too hard to focus on all three main characters. In some parts, it feels like Bakshi should have stuck to one character and have the film revolve around him. Also, the live-action scenes don't really add anything to the movie. The ending is very confusing and should have been told with more clarity.

Best Scene: There are so many good scenes throughout this movie, it's hard to choose just one.

Overall Grade: 9.0 out of 10

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Mr. Trombley said...

My personal favorite scene is the opening credits, where scatman performs "Ah'm A Nigger Man". It set up the rest of the movie so beautifully. The live action segments were topical satires on Disney's "Song Of The South", and have aged as well as most topical satires.

m said...

This movie was once called Streetfight.

DJ Kool JB said...

Streetfight was the name given to the VHS release. Actually Coonskin was the original name given to it's theatrical release. I remember seeing the movie in a multiplex in ny. Grouped with William Shatner's "Giant Spider Invasion" and Jodie Fosters "the Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane"