At the age of twenty-nine, Elgar Enders “runs away” from home. This running away consists of buying a building in a black ghetto in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Initially his intention is to evict the black tenants and convert it into a posh flat. But Elgar is not one to be bound by yesterday’s urges, and soon he has other thoughts on his mind. He’s grown fond of the black tenants and particularly of Fanny, the wife of a black radical; he’s maybe fallen in love with Lanie, a mulatto girl; he’s lost interest in redecorating his home. Joyce, his mother has not relinquished this interest and in one of the film’s most hilarious sequences gives her Master Charge card to Marge, a black tenant and appoints her decorator. —IMDb
Hal Ashby was born the fourth and youngest child in a Mormon household in Ogden, Utah, on September 2, 1929. His father was a dairy farmer. After a rough childhood that included the divorce of his parents, his father’s suicide, his dropping out of high school, getting married and divorced all before he was 19, he decided to leave Utah for California. A Californian employment office found him a printing press job at Universal Studios. Within a few years, he was an assistant film editor at various other studios. One of his pals while at MGM was a young messenger named Jack Nicholson. He moved up to being a full fledged editor on The Loved One (1965) and started editing the films of director Norman Jewison.
A highlight of his film editing career was winning an Oscar for the landmark In the Heat of the Night (1967). Itching to become a director, Jewison gave him a script he was too busy to work on called The Landlord (1970). It became Ashby’s first film as a director. From there… read more
I've always considered myself a Hal Ashby fan, but I somehow managed to miss this film, his first one, until now. The damn thing was even made in Park Slope, one year before I was born there. (Also one year before Beau's brother Jeff stole his thunder, with Peter Bogdanovich’s help.) Anyway, it's a beauty, and a rarity, a film about race that not only eschews easy answers and lazy reductions, but is graceful, funny, and formally daring. Though endearingly dated, it is also, somewhat depressingly, as timely as ever.
Contrary to David Thomson, Ashby is an auteur because who else do the flaws in this film - radical editing choices that sometimes do not pay off; occasional liberal didacticism - belong to? Honestly conflicted about race, the resulting confusions feel true to life. And the acting! Grant so sexily comic she defines the Oedipal Complex. Sands and Bey and their utterly unique voices. Bailey! Willis! The music! Joy!
An African-American arthouse vampire movie which is really a love story and a spiritual trip-out.