There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the movie Louis CK cites as “the first film that inspired me as a filmmaker.” Not only can folks in the Los Angeles area watch the film this weekend at an event hosted by the comedian himself, but you can also listen to a talkback with its esteemed writer/director, Robert Downey Sr. (billed in the credits as Robert Downey ‘A Prince’).
Released in 1969, “Putney Swope” is a satirical look at the New York ad world, a milieu familiar to modern audiences as Don Draper’s stomping ground. Swope (played by Arnold Johnson, though Downey dubbed the vocals) is the token black executive on a massive ad agency’s board. Through a mix-up, he’s voted in as new CEO, then promptly dismisses all members of the board but one token white and renames the company Truth & Soul, Inc. The company adopts sexually explicit marketing campaigns, ceases peddling booze and weapons and attracts suspicion from the U.S. government.
Swope claims that “rockin’ the boat’s a drag. You gotta sink the boat!” which is what Downey Sr. seems to have been aiming for. Apparently as dark, ambitious, and influential as the film is, the writer/director felt it didn’t push the envelope far enough initially. Since then, other filmmakers, including the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, have heaped loads of praise upon it.
The film screens this Sunday, December 7, as the culmination of The Cinefamily’s weekend-long fundraiser, honoring Downey Sr.’s career. If you’re unfamiliar, “The Cinefamily is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization of movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs of exceptional, distinctive, weird and wonderful films.” Other events over the weekend include a discussion between Downey Sr. and his wildly famous, superheroing and sleuthing son, Robert Downey Jr., and a screening of Downey Sr.’s 1972 film, “Greaser’s Palace” hosted by Anderson.
Check out the new trailer for “Putney Swope” below, and if you’re going to be in L.A. this weekend and want to catch Downey, Sr., you can pick up tickets to the fundraiser here. The “Putney Swope” event takes place at 2:30PM Pacific Time at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. And if you’re not in L.A., “Putney Swope” is available via The Criterion Collection.