One of the first animators to aim cartoons squarely at adults, Ralph Bakshi hasn’t made a film since 1992, but his new Kickstarter-funded project “Last Days of Coney Island” has him working again, and BAMcinematek is presenting a tribute to the Brooklyn-born innovator.
“Cool Worlds: The Animation of Ralph Bakshi” will feature seven out of Bakshi’s nine animated features, leaving out his adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” and his Frank Frazetta collaboration “Fire and Ice.” The series will instead focus on Bakshi’s more idiosyncratically edgy, highly political, sexual, and often controversial films.
The series will begin with Bakshi’s second feature, the autobiographical “Heavy Traffic,” which follows inner-city cartoonist Michael Corleone (yes, you read that right), who escapes his troubled family life by getting involved in an equally violent New York street life. The film was Bakshi’s biggest critical success and was a huge influence on the work of Jonathan Lethem.
The series will continue with Bakshi’s controversial cult film “Coonskin,” which transports Uncle Remus caricatures to Harlem as a way to critique blaxploitation and explore African-American culture. The film, which features performances by Barry White and Scatman Crothers, was attacked by some for being exploitative, but it gained a following including Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee.
Select screenings of “Heavy Traffic” and “Coonskin” will be followed by Q&A’s with appearances by Bakshi. The former will be moderated by Mark Randolph of Wax Poetics, while the latter will see Bakshi joined by Darius James, author of “That’s Blaxploitation: Roots of the Baadasssss ‘Tude.”
Other films in the lineup include Bakshi’s debut “Fritz the Cat,” a controversial adaptation of the Robert Crumb comic that holds the distinction of being the first X-rated animated film; “Wizards,” a post-apocalyptic fantasy film featuring neo-Nazi villains and an NSFW fairy princess; “American Pop,” a century-spanning musical epic featuring music from Gershwin to Bob Seger to the Sex Pistols; “Hey Good Lookin’,” a “Mean Streets”-esque quasi-musical spoof; and “Cool World,” a mixture of live-action and animation that plays as a sort of adult-oriented “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and stars Gabriel Byrne, Kim Basinger and Brad Pitt.
“Cool Worlds” will run from May 9th-20th at BAMcinematek. The full schedule is below.
Fri, May 9
“Heavy Traffic” (2:30, 4:30, 7:00 w/Bakshi Q&A, 9:45 pm)
Sat, May 10
“Coonskin” (7:00 w/Bakshi Q&A, 9:45 pm)
Tue, May 13
“Heavy Traffic” (4:30 pm)
Thu, May 15
“Fritz the Cat” (4:30 pm)
Fri, May 16
“Wizards” (2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 9:50 pm)
Sat, May 17
“Fritz the Cat” (2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 9:50 pm)
Sun, May 18
“American Pop” (2:00, 6:30 pm)
“Hey Good Lookin'” (4:15, 8:45 pm)
Mon, May 19
“Hey Good Lookin'” (4:30 pm)
Tue, May 20
“Cool World” (4:30, 7:00, 9:15 pm)