Chafed Elbows (1966)

Chafed Elbows (1966) movie poster

director Robert Downey
viewed: 07/04/2016

Further evidence that the 1960’s were one of the most radical and inventive in cinema since the Lumière brothers, Georges Méliès, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, can be found in Robert Downey (Sr.)

I’d long meant to see Putney Swope (1969) and Greaser’s Palace (1972) but my first chance to encounter him arose in his 1966 film, Chafed Elbows.  I’m not the first to see it as some comic interpretation of style adopted from Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the use of still images in parts, replacing the moving images of traditional cinema.  There’s a little bit of the Marx Brothers about it as well, all filtered through a prism of the mid-1960’s, New York, and low-budget, independent underground.

It’s better late than never to discover another figure of underground film.  If I took nothing else away from this than name-dropping Marker, the Marx Brothers, the Lumières, Keaton, and let’s tack on Kenneth Anger, who’s Scorpio Rising shares the bill on the poster, I’d have to say that’s good company for Robert Downey to keep.

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