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Lenny
USA 1974
Directed by Bob Fosse
Running time 112 minutes
Rated G
4 stars


Bob Fosse's film is an account, scripted by Julian Barry based on his own stage play, of the rise and fall of Lenny Bruce who pioneered free-wheeling, confrontational stand-up comedy in the 1950s, became a sensation and tragically spiralled out of control as he fought the censorship laws of his time and heroin addiction, dying of an accidental overdose in 1966.

With its self-destructive central figure well played by Dustin Hoffman, fine black and white photography by Brian Surtees, the film stylistically can be seen as a kind of precursor to Raging Bull and it is likely that Scorsese was familiar with the film when he made his Jake LaMotta story.

The film is very characteristically '70s in its preoccupation with sexual freedom, drugs and the repressive Establishment, but nevertheless if stands the test of time well. One-time Vegas showgirl, Valerie Perrine, at the high point of her career, won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Bruce's stripper wife, Honey Harlow.

 

 

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