Monday, August 27, 2007

Putney Swope (1969, Robert Downey Sr.)

"Dark satire in which the token black man on the executive board of an advertising firm is accidentally put in charge"

I wish this little write up that I am going to write right now would be me praising this little cult film and calling it a hidden gem. I wish I could have discovered something brilliant that I could go on to recommend people. I wish I basically could have liked this film.

Putney Swope is a blaxploitation film before there was even a genre named blaxploitation. I have read about it before and seen it mentioned in a lot of lists as one of the first of its genre. I was curious to see it ever since I first heard about it a couple of months ago and finally after a long wait I have done so.

The film has all the indications that it would be great. The plot is simple but it is a great set up for what could be some hilarious and dark satire. In the film Putney Swope, who is the only black man working for an all white advertising agency, is accidentally elected the new chairman of the company one day. The first thing he does is fire every single white man and hire black people who have "truth and soul". Now with his new co workers he aims to turn advertising on its head by creating controversial and honest advertisements for its products that become a phenomenal success of their own.

Sounds like it would be great, right? It isn't.

The film starts off like it will be a sharp and dark satire on advertising but this disappears very shortly once the credits are done. Once you have seen the first 20 minutes of the film, you have probably seen everything the film has to offer.

It all starts going downhill when characters start randomly shouting lines of dialogue over and over again to each other, midget presidents are introduced who like having threesomes with "normal people", and the satire becomes so absurd that instead of being smart and cleaver it becomes stupid and pointless.

However, the ads that the film shows are true little gems of comedy. They just sadly don't come that often and mot of the time you are just sitting there watching midget presidents and black people dressed up as cowboys shouting to themselves and you sort of just wish another advertisement would come up already.

It's pretty great that a film so rebellious and "underground" like Putney Swope existed in its time.Maybe it's because times have changed or maybe its because it was all along the same, but the magic the film once had is now lost and now seems just like an odd artifact of its rebellious times. It's nice to admire but not easy to enjoy.

- C-

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