If you haven't seen this film then it must go on your must-see list of films, category surrealism. Chaotic cineastes will approve.
Greaser's Palace (1972)
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If you haven't seen this film then it must go on your must-see list of films, category surrealism. Chaotic cineastes will approve.
Greaser (Caesar) as absolute despot, runs the world in small, a dot on the map in the middle of this desert. He is inhumanly patient, ruthless, vicious, gleeful, cruel, capricious, and whimsical. Over the course of the film he personifies welds of any two of these traits. He has an entourage of minions, lackeys, and wannabes. They perform his bidding without question. The balance of the town residents have no power, but are at the complete mercy of Greaser (standing in not only for Caesar, ruler of the known world, but also personifying the indifferent, uncaring world and cosmos). But he has the worst case of constipation the world has ever seen. For all his power, and all the aid of the Mariachi brothers, and the shining love of his own mother who he keeps in a cage, - he can't make.
People go about their business as best they can, - with many rather bizarre distractions. There is a transvestite nun, or the ugliest female nun ever imagined (taking THAT bromide to its extreme logical conclusion, one quite ridiculous, but somehow fitting in this picture). A rancher has vaguely necrophilic fantasies regarding the local First Peoples. Christ Jesus turns out to be a rather exceptional chiropractor. Our female heroine keeps getting kicked in the teeth, again and again, - and again for good measure. She seems stuck in the Old Testament. Greaser's perenially disappointing son, Lamy Homo, also gets this treatment at the hands of his own father. The sins of the fathers visited upon their sons, the errors of history repeating themselves from generation to generation. An old coot in a white dress nicknamed Petunia, but who's real name is Luci(fer) tempts our other protagonist, Jesse, who although is technically not a criminal, is treated as one. A guy in a Charlie Brown ghost sheet with two round black eyes cut out protests that his role is too small. A little game of chance takes forever.......
That same Jesse arrives earlier in the film via an extreme wide establishing shot of a conestoga wagon rambling, creaking, and rumbling as it crawls across the desert plain. Just as it passes, - and the scene is sedate since there's nothing else happening,- Jesse arrives in the Old West from the top of the frame via a giant parachute, hits ground, dusts off his Zoot-suit, and unsurely gains some footing with some shuffling dance steps. He continues this perfect if uncertain timing over the plain, seeking..... something.
He finds "the agent Morris", a poor excuse for John the Baptist in any century, who also sees other futures, since he seems to wish to protect his head by wearing a space helmet.
In bemused/focused reverie, Jesse performs numerous miracles for the townsfolk;some of whom become cloyingly annoying. And for this receives the attention, and the rare(unique)if unspoken admiration of Greaser. He appears on Greaser's stage, to be approved or rejected by the audience. The female lead (Adam/Eve/Job/Everyman) takes on perhaps her most significant role as that of Judas.
Long before the pointlessly cryptic DaVinci Code (an insult to both Catholicism, the whole of Christendom AND Leonardo DaVinci, not to mention the likely intelligence of any typically well-read history buff; and again another Hollywood flick filmed in MurkyVision!) - Downy Sr. presents the "fact" of the act between Jesse and Mary Magdeline; oddly, for a film so apparently zongo and off-center, the only major departure from general Christian orthodoxy. A bad one at that, but well,it was the 70s, it was spring, we were young.....
The quietest scene in the entire film is perhaps the most powerful, - where Jesse is chastened by His Father - "You... get... going!!!", played by a perfectly cast, cloud-white bushy-haired, bushy-bearded, Amish-looking grandfather. All in the midst of spectacularly gory and absurd carnage. Sounds like the world to me.
Despite all the couching in absurdest non-linear plotting, extreme violence SEEMING to be merely lurid and gratuitous, and the many bizarre characters and subplots to nowhere, this is really a very gripping, awesome, violent, fabulous, eye-catching, mind-catching, amusing, hilarious in places, and ultimately heart-rendering re-telling of the Passion of Christ. (NOT the second coming as this or that reviewer has stated.) There are two other scenes which vie with the Father/Son meeting for most powerful/compelling/affecting sequences in the film. I omit their descriptions to provide motive for your unfilled spare time.
Repectfully, Larry Hiam
Downsides to the movie are several, & typical of this filmmaker - easily a third of the movie is incoherent boring & gratuitous - Downey's self-referential homages to family & friends are typical of independent filmmakers; Downey has literally taken this type of nepotism to the level of art, but it never succeeds, in any of his movies. Yet none of his other films achieve the kind of profundity this one at least occasionally does. & in spite of its excesses & shortcomings, the film brims with political & poetic energy & ideas. Quite probably this is the work of a director who thinks the raggedness & incoherence & navel-gazing are all enhancements, or at least necessary to The Experience (etc., etc.). Bow-tied think-tankers might remain unmoved by the delicate insights of Downey. But I'd have to go so far as to say Greaser's Palace stands as a far more compelling & visceral evocation of the drug dazed visionary daydreaming that preoccupied so many well-endowed minds in the sixties & very early seventies than do, e.g., Nicholson's 'Head' or Hopper's 'Last Picture Show'. Downey, Arbus & Co. at least have much more brain to fry.
Nothing in this movie is spelled out. It is a mystery. It's very funny, and it just leaves you with a feeling of having seen something very important and meaningful about life and death, but you're not sure what...
My favourite spot in the movie is when "our" man is asked to give something to the followers, upon which he starts to hum a continuous tone. The "disiples" soon catches on and sings the tone to. He then leaves them, and they dare not stop this gift they have been given. Throughout the rest of the movie you can always hear them in the background or nearby, off camera, as the movie goes on with other things!
And the closing scene with the setting sun, and the music/sound just had me mesmerized!
I saw it only once, in 1986, and even today I often think about it. I wish I could buy it, but I haven't seen it anywhere. I really want to see it one more time.
A MUST see !
Favorite moments: Lamey Homo protesting his dad, Mr. Greaser's, disciplinary methods, "I dreamed I was swimmin' in a rainbow and there was millions of babies and they was naked...Dad? I don't want to die any more." Dad's response: "Then behave yourself!" Sibling rivalry on the part of the Holy Ghost protesting God the Father's refusal to let him take on some of God the Son's perks (like being crucified): "You'll never know what I can do because you never give me a chance!" Jesus healing the paralyzed man, who is seen later in the film crying, "I can crawl again! I can crawl again!"
It took me a moment to identify which character was supposed to be Judas, until the woman settler, who goes through so many terrible disasters, began counting out thirty pieces of silverware.
It is somewhat disjointed, and definitely sacrilegious in spots, but those drawbacks are very minor. This is an original, savagely funny film.
The dialogue is extremely non-sequitur, and the characters are hilarious! Herve' Villachaise is wonderful as a condensed cowboy married to a 6-foot tall man named "Petunia".
I highly recommend this movie simply on the basis that it is so bizarre (even though Greaser doesn't think he's bizarre enough). Oh, and knowing that Robert Downey directed this puts a few things into perspective as well (yes, that's Robert Downey Sr., as in Father of R D Jr.)
In 1972 it was an Art theatric smoker; now it is a late night movie broadcast. What a change in a single generation
The message rings as true some 38 years latter. It might make Colera angry but Jesse still puts the Hubba Hubba in my Soul
Robert Downey's portrayal of the Trinity helped in my grasp of this concept. Nobody knows who the Ghost is but he moves the story
If you feel you're healed
All the best John Stump
IMDb won't let me post this without at least 10 lines of text so I'm now typing a bunch of stuff just so they'll let me post this and it's pretty lame that they have to do this to me because all i wanted to do was make a comment, I didn't feel like writing an essay, but it's what they're forcing me to do and now I'm done.
The only thing I remember about this film, other than the odd wardrobe and overall weirdness, was the line "Do you want to suckle my stinger". I have no idea which character said that line, or to whom it was said.
I'd like to find this movie on DVD & watch it again, a second time after all these years, to see what I've forgotten--undoubtedly quite a bit of it.
Cinema fans schooled in the post-blockbuster world will no doubt be bored to tears. There's no buzz editing and explosions. Fans of indie films from the 60s and 70s will only note this for it's historical significance. Worth watching for that alone, but not much else.
It is unique, and still rates in my top 10 favorites. I love religious spoofs, and cowboys and the old West really add to the humor. Yet another story of a reluctant messiah, who just wants to be a song and dance man, but has to deal with his destiny.
It was too much for the commercial market, so never got the wide screening it deserved. If it were released in 1999, it would be a bigger hit.
This quality — originality, uniqueness; call it what you like — means a great deal to me. I've seen so much cinema, from the late 1800s to the present, from America to Japan and everything in between, that I very rarely stumble across something that is a truly novel viewing experience. The three amateur films that began his career as a filmmaker — "Babo 73", "Chafed Elbows", and "No More Excuses" — were the first experiences I had with Downey, and I was pretty instantly enamored with him. The films aren't masterpieces. In fact, they're far from it. They're filled with flaws and shortcomings, but also with moments of fantastic off-the-wall humor and scathing satire. More than anything, they're almost completely unique. I was reminded very slightly of a few of Godard's films with the Dziga Vertov Group from the early '70s, like "Wind From the East" and "Vladimir and Rosa", and a bit more of Scorsese's early short films, but otherwise I can't really recall any films that came to mind as being similar to these remarkable bundles of absurdist energy.
I next saw "Putney Swope", Downey's first professional film, if I'm not mistaken. It was very similar to its predecessors, only much more polished and professionally executed. Two films later, in 1972, Downey came out with "Greaser's Palace".
The first thing I noted about this film was the change to color. Aside from that, however, the cinematography is very similar to "Putney Swope", utilizing a realist style with hand-held camera-work and so forth. Downey's basic sense of humor is present, but on the whole, "Greaser's Palace" is a very different film from the other four Downey films I've seen. It's much more toned down, and the general mood of the film diverges significantly from what we're used to. Downey deviates somewhat from his usual absurdist farce and buffoonery (although he definitely doesn't dispense with it entirely), replacing it instead with something more quiet and understated, by comparison to his other films, that is. For the first time in any of his films that I've seen, there are moments in "Greaser's Palace" that actually appear to be intended to be taken seriously, at least to some extent. The final shot of the film is absolutely stunning, both beautiful and disturbing on a visceral level. It's truly a very strange film, and while it doesn't all together work, it has its moments.
"Greaser's Palace" is an allegorical film, a parable of the life of Christ. Downey clearly doesn't subscribe to any specific political beliefs or ideologies, and has said so himself. These aren't left-wing films with a social message; they're just raw satire for its own sake. When all is said and done, the primary function of Downey's films is to be enjoyed. It's comedy for comedy's sake. If, however, there was ever a Robert Downey film that felt like it was intended to mean something, this is that film. Religious satire has always been present in Downey's films, but until now it had always been overwhelmed by the much more dominant political satire in his films. In "Greaser's Palace", though, the religious satire is the core of the film. The allegory is extremely thinly veiled, comically so, and Downey pulls no punches.
For instance, I recall three figures standing together in a field near the end of the film. One is a younger man who refers to the older man next to him as his father. The third figure is a man covered in a white sheet, with two holes cut out where the eyes might be. These three not-so-mysterious figures are, of course, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This is Downey's idea of humor. Whether it's funny or not will depend very much on the viewer. While the symbolism and metaphor are far from brilliant, I've found that there is more than enough humor to be found in his irreverence alone. His blatant lack of respect for religion and politics, I believe, has worked to wonderful comedic effect in his films.
I thought "Greaser's Palace" was a mess for the bulk of the viewing, and it probably is the worst of the five films I've seen by Downey — certainly the most flawed — but in its own way it may also be the most interesting. The usual frenetic pace of Downey's comedy is melted into something closer to deadpan humor at times, and by the end of the film I must say that I was vaguely interested. I haven't made a great deal of effort to interpret the symbolism and the allegory, and the specifics of what exactly Downey was trying to say, because ultimately I feel like I'd be left with what I already know: Downey never really tries to say much of anything. He simply makes fun of everything. And here he takes great pleasure in ridiculing religion on every imaginable level.
Is "Greaser's Palace" a good film? I don't think so. But it's interesting, at least in part, and while I think it fails on the whole, I won't say that I wasn't engaged by it for certain moments, particularly towards the end of the film. I found that it had much more impact on me than I could logically or rationally account for. Give it a shot, and see what you think. A film this original and unique earns some respect on those merits alone.
RATING: 5.67 out of 10 stars
It rambles. It fumbles.
But it's strangely hypnotic.
For me there isn't much of a plot. Maybe because it was directed for pot heads, I am missing something. I don't really get the life of Christ reference really. Except that Greaser does some healing. And makes some references to Jerusalem, but it's all way too obtuse and silly to be taken as a true satire or even a referential film.
Life of Brian was so much better.
The movie loses it's hypnosis about 20 minutes into it and become boring...again, maybe because I'm not high...or maybe because the 70s are long gone and they weren't that fun or kooky to begin with.
A lot of these wacky 70s films are just not so wacky today. The hippies are retiring and the world is going to hell. No time for meaningless drivel.
** (out of 4)
I know that there are people out there who really, really enjoy this movie as its cult following appears to get bigger and bigger each year but I can't say I'm one of them. After hearing so many things about this film I had to try it for myself but I never really got drawn into the movie so for the most part it left me bored. The film is pretty much a stoner's (or alternative) look at the life of Jesus Christ but set in the Old West. A zoot suit wearing man is going through a small town where he heals the sick and brings the dead back to life. This doesn't sit too well with the town bad guy. That's pretty much the only bit of "plot" that I could pick up because this movie certainly succeeds at being strange and surreal. I think the likes of someone like Bunuel would even have a hard time following everything that goes on in this thing. The humor isn't in your face funny but more often than not it's just laid back and really comes off without having to use any punchlines. Something, or almost anything, will happen and you either laugh or you don't. The film really doesn't push too hard for laughs so I think it's really going to depend on whether or not the viewer can really get into the film from the start. I was unable to so that certainly explains why I wasn't really going along with the thing. I certainly respect the attempt but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Look quick for Robert Downey, Jr. playing a molested boy.