Interview-style biography of controversial and pioneering stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. The film traces Bruce from his beginnings as a Catskills comic to his later underground popularity based on his anti-establishment politics and his scatological humor.
Dustin Hoffman ... Lenny Bruce
Valerie Perrine ... Honey Bruce
Jan Miner ... Sally Marr
Stanley Beck ... Artie Silver
Frankie Man ... Baltimore Comic
Rashel Novikoff ... Aunt Mema
Gary Morton ... Sherman Hart
Guy Rennie ... Jack Goldstein
Michele Yonge ... Nurse
Kathryn Witt ... Girl (as Kathie Witt)
Monroe Myers ... Hawaiin Judge
John DiSanti ... John Santi
Mickey Gatlin ... San Francisco Policeman
Martin Begley ... San Francisco Judge
Mark Harris ... Defense Attorney
I went into this film knowing nothing about the comic Lenny Bruce, and after watching this film I have already added two of his CDs to my Wish List. I am eager to hear more, to listen to his words, and be intrigued by how his thoughts are still relevant in today's society. This was a beautiful film made in 1974. The decision by director Bob Fosse to film it completely in black and white was brilliant. Hoffman and Perrine's chemistry is brilliant as well as their performances. The power of this man is vividly demonstrated through this film, leaving you with questions answered as well as a desire to hear more. This was such a captivating feature. From the opening sequence of words spewing from a mouth to the final shot of Lenny Bruce, I was glued to my seat.
To begin, the cinematography was better than most feature films. Fosse knew what he was doing and did it with the greatest of ease. His choice to film completely in black and white really helped me hear the words that Bruce spoke instead of just being involved in the colors that surrounded him. The black and white feature gave Hoffman the ability to create a human from his character and take us away from Hoffman and into the mind of comic Lenny Bruce. The shots that Fosse used also assisted with building this compelling story. Every shot is important in this film, and Fosse does a great job of demonstrating and explaining the "why" and "where" of a scene. This was his first and only non musical, and he was triumphant. The way that the story works in a pseudo-documentary style was impeccable. While you are never quite told who the person is behind the camera, you do get that raw emotion from the actors as if you were watching a real documentary. There was just so much emotion that Fosse pulled from his troupe in this film that you could only watch in amazement. It also left the door open to the question of who is behind the camera. With the words that Bruce said nightly in his show, I couldn't help but think of the possibility of government conspiracy. Maybe I am way off, but there was that aura of "cover-up" throughout this film. Even the final sequence gives off that sense.
BAM – Powerful cinematography is right in front of you, but whom do we have in the center of the camera? None other than a very young and fresh Dustin Hoffman. This film really showcased his talents. While he had several films before this one that brought him into the spotlight, I thought that he went above and beyond for this film. He really transformed himself into the character. Some of my favorite moments with Hoffman in Lenny was when he thinks about the nurse the first time, when Honey calls asking for money, and when he asks the Judge to sentence him now instead of going through the trial. The vision of defeat was spectacular. You see in this film why Hoffman is considered one of the greats of Hollywood. Valerie Perrine, also a young actress at the time, was immaculate. Her portrayal of Honey needs to go in the history books. Actresses today could take a moment or two to learn from this dramatic actress. These two actors really brought this film together. They took you deep into the life of this radical thinker and kept you nestled deeply inside of him. They shined greatly, and the Academy saw it too!
BAM – Cinematography, BAM – award winning acting, what can be the final BAM? How about Lenny Bruce? Born well after his death, I had never even heard of the man, but the words that I witnessed from this film from his mouth shocked me. Not so much because of the shock value that surrounded them, but just how relevant his work is still today. As homosexuality becomes a staple in our community and society, Lenny's comments on the teachers in this film seemed like topics we are still talking about today. He was way ahead of his time, and I think that is why people feared him. Living with an English teacher, I am constantly involved with the English language, but I am also shown information about those that have no interest because they do not see how it relates to "real" life. I am also aware of how little respect English gets as daily we hear of schools cutting back on their Literature studies to help support their sports program, or how the first way to cut back spending is to close libraries. These are sad days that we live in, and if only people could see how powerful words can be in defending yourself and explaining the world, I think we would see a rebirth. If I had the option to fight with a loaded gun or an aggressive dictionary, I think you can see which I would choose. Lenny Bruce did no harm to anyone, he spoke his mind, and for that he was convicted. What a sad day for America.
This biopic about shock comedian Lenny Bruce was Bob Fosse's followup to his well-received 1972 film "Cabaret." I'm pretty sure that "Lenny" was a financial bomb, and I'm not surprised. It's a relentlessly depressing and ugly film, despite the stylish polish Fosse gives it. Anyone who has seen Fosse's last film, "Star 80," knows just how nihilistic this director could be, and "Lenny" shows evidence of that.
It is a fascinating film though, in its own way. Fosse uses a documentary-like approach, complete with black and white photography and a narrative device in which we see Bruce's long-suffering love (played heartbreakingly by Valerie Perrine, Lex Luthor's bikini-clad girlfriend in "Superman" ) telling Bruce's story to a filmmaker while the actual events themselves are played out as flashbacks. Fosse was fond of this confessional type of storytelling and would use it again in "All That Jazz" (1979). Dustin Hoffman is simply sensational as Bruce; he utterly disappears into this caustic character until no trace of Hoffman the actor is left. Technically, everything about the film is highly accomplished, but it's so desolately grim as to be off putting.
Well if I was ever in any doubt about Dustin Hoffman's talent this movie truly has put an end to it. I've seen enough footage of the real Lenny Bruce to realise just what a great performance this is. He looks so like Bruce, and the mannerisms are so well done it is hard to think of any way this performance could be improved upon. The direction and camera work are also superb as is Valerie Perrine's performance as Bruce's wife.
* The one-take master shot scene of Lenny doing his act in a raincoat near the end of the film came from an actual tape recorded from a show he did that was sent to Dustin Hoffman by a student who saw the show. Lenny's exact words in the scene on stage are verbatim from the tape of his show.
* The off-camera voice you can hear during the interview scenes is that of director Bob Fosse.
* Neil Diamond was originally selected for the title role but declined.
* Raquel Welch was offered the role of Honey Bruce. She turned the part down, because she thought she could not play it.
* The character of Sherman Hart is based on Milton Berle; the real name wasn't used because Berle was still alive and there were fears he might sue for libel. But the character uses all of Berle's mannerisms and trademark shtick, including sticking the cigar under his top lip.
* Lenny Bruce shaved erratically. Sometimes he was clean shaven, more often he had several days of stubble. Sometimes he let it grow for weeks and it looked like a "proper" beard, but this was rare. To avoid continuity problems, he is portrayed with a full beard through most of the picture.