Heavy Traffic (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A world without women.

            Animated feature with some live-action scenes dealing with a lonely 24 year old artist named Michael who is still living with his parents in a rundown New York City apartment and aspires to be an underground cartoonist.

The film seems compelled right from the beginning to shock and offend as many viewers as it can. Violence and blood, lots of blood, seems to spurt out of characters heads and bodies every few minutes. Breasts pop out of female dresses with just as much regularity and there is even a segment dealing with spousal abuse that gets rather nasty.  Racial stereotypes abound and the N-word is used liberally by the white characters. Some may consider this groundbreaking while others might think it was done by someone who has been sitting alone in his studio too long and needs to seek professional help.  I can appreciate the no-holed-barred approach and the idea that cartoons don’t have to be just for kids, but the edginess is no longer as potent these days since Family Guy, American Dad, and South Park come quite close to what you see here and in some ways are even more outrageous.

The story is too free-form and lacks focus. It took quite a while before I could get into it and the beginning comes off like a lot torrid, wild images thrown at you without cohesion, or direction. The characters are vulgar, gross, and unlikable. Michael, as the protagonist, as some appeal, but he is too detached.

There were some scenes that I found to be quite funny, but they all come in the second half. The scene where Michael describes a new fantasy comic he wants to create to a very sickly, old publisher is great and nicely symbolizes how the old guard is out of touch with the tastes and ideas of the younger generation. His idea deals with an apocalyptic world that has no women, so the men have sex with a pile of garbage instead only to have a real woman appear and then be taken away by God who wants her for himself. This sequence is by far the funniest and most imaginatively perverse of the whole film and I wished that this had been the main premise.  Another segment has Michael’s father bringing home an obese prostitute for Michael, which in a gross sort of way is highly amusing. Another similar scene has Michael trying to have sex with another woman on the rooftop of a building, but inadvertently knocks her over the side wall and she spends the rest of the film dangling naked by a telephone wire. The Godfather who eats a hearty meal of spaghetti while in front of a row of urinals deserves mention as well.

The film is certainly not for all tastes. The animation may not hold up to today’ s standards and the live action segments are not as interesting. The ending falls flat and gets extended longer than it should. Supposedly the initial idea was to have it end with a climatic car chase with images of penny arcade pinball machines flashed across the sky, which would have been better, but due to budget restraints was scrapped.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 17Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

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