Harsh, funny, grim, and, like all Bob Fosse's films, primarily concerned with the intersection of life and showbiz. Fosse's followup to the masterly CABARET, LENNY proves that it's not easy to be ahead of your time. By today's standards, much of what Lenny Bruce said on stage would be
unremarkable, and it's still debatable whether the comedian was crushed for his irrepressible foul mouth or his subversive (if not exactly profound) social commentary. Either way, his customary mode of agonized self-analysis was irresistible to director Fosse, who was to use similar techniques in
filming the story of his own life, ALL THAT JAZZ.
The film begins with Lenny's courtship of his wife Honey (Perrine), a stripper with a surprising amount of class and smarts (at least as Perrine plays her). His overpowering love for Honey suggests a problem with his personality: he never seems to know how to let go of anything. On the brink of
mainstream success, he refuses, literally, to clean up his act, resulting in a series of arrests for obscenity; a heroin addiction brings further trouble with the law. He becomes preoccupied with his legal battles and begins to see himself as a martyr for artistic freedom. Finally, his obsession
with death overrides all others.
A series of flashbacks prompted by pseudo-verite interviews (conducted by an unseen Fosse), LENNY is structured like a patchwork quilt a la CITIZEN KANE. Perrine, never considered much of an actress before this movie, is quite solid as Honey, as is Miner in a rendition of Bruce's actress-manager
mom Sally Marr. Hoffman, generally successful in abrasive roles, never loses one's sympathy here, and is especially good in the courtroom scenes. Towards the end, one wonders whether the film's sexual and thanatological obsessions have more to do with Bruce or with Fosse (the menage-a-trois scene,
for instance, has no known basis in the comedian's life, but it was familiar territory for the director). In ALL THAT JAZZ, Fosse's alter ego is shown editing a film very much like LENNY; it features Cliff Gorman as a death-obsessed comedian. Gorman had played Lenny Bruce on Broadway; his role in
ALL THAT JAZZ was Fosse's apology for failing to use him in LENNY. Visually striking, due mostly to Surtees' beautifully shaded black-and-white cinematography.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: R
- Review: Harsh, funny, grim, and, like all Bob Fosse's films, primarily concerned with the intersection of life and showbiz. Fosse's followup to the masterly CABARET, LENNY proves that it's not easy to be ahead of your time. By today's standards, much of what Lenny… (more)