The Savage Eye ★★★½

The reason why this maybe doesn’t completely work is partially what makes it so great. Unlike a city symphony, this is bound by a flimsy narrative - which I suspect is Joseph Strick’s doing... a guy who seems to wanna make linear things out of the abstract (see his Joyce adaptations), and it’s because of and maybe even despite of this fact that it manages to find moments of the poetic and of the profound. 

Through silences, in glances, in a car wreck or at a department store. Some of these moments are inherently tied to the narrative and many happen to fit it while others do not. For every wonderful face or reaction Barbara Baxley makes, fuckin’ Gary Merrill nearly ruins it with his radio voiceover. But then after awhile I found myself enjoying some of his omniscient thoughts and musings.

At its worst, Savage Eye feels like a newsreel telling you how to feel, and at its best it’s a piercing look at loneliness and an interesting document of an era in a city long gone. Helen Levitt’s camerawork also really shines through here.  Without her and Haskell Wexler, who knows what this would’ve looked like.

35mm print - MoMI