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Review: On the Bowery

The quintessential skid row
By PETER KEOUGH  |  February 2, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars

Manhattan's Bowery now showcases pricy condos and fancy restaurants, but back in 1956, when Lionel Rogosin made this newly restored, groundbreaking semi-documentary, it was still the quintessential skid row. As a historical document, the film chills with its Walker Evans–like photography of broken men and their squalid surroundings, the close-ups of ruined faces possessing a tragic beauty. But the simple tale that Rogosin unfolds in this setting — three days in the lives of a couple of Bowery denizens playing themselves — also packs a wallop. Country boy Ray has just come into town, toting all his goods in a battered suitcase. Gorman, an older, cannier drunk, befriends Ray as they knock back muscatel in a bucket-of-blood bar. The hapless newcomer needs all the help he can get, waking up every morning passed out and newly robbed. Let's just say that Gorman is ambivalent in his loyalties. This is a primal story of survival and trust set in what was one of the worst places in the world.

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  Topics: Reviews , New York, Manhattan, movie
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