Ralph Bakshi

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Lee Beaupre

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Bakshi's idea of wit [in "Fritz the Cat"] is to resurrect an 8-year-old Terry Southernism like "prevert," have Fritz "kill a john" by shooting at a toilet, resolve the Israeli situation by having the Zionists "return the cities of New York and Los Angeles to the United States" and paraphrase an old Elaine May-Mike Nichols routine with a bossy lady making "a big bourgeois deal out of everything."

As for the film's animation, it is a long way from what "Yellow Submarine" had let us to anticipate in future cartooning. Some of the backgrounds have a pleasing graphic quality—perhaps because they were watercolored adaptations of photographs of New York and thus relied very little on Bakshi's "imagination"—but his constant zooming and tilting hardly augments the attractiveness of these images. And when real invention is required for a sequence depicting the post-explosion apocalypse, Bakshi feebly resorts to a sepia-toned live-action shot of a desert gale.

In juxtaposition to the stylized reality of these backgrounds, the foreground figures are as cutely sentimentalized as in any Saturday morning TV cartoon—hardly surprising in that Bakshi apprenticed in just this kind of hack work. By marrying pretension with bad habits, Bakshi has made his film look like Heckle and Jeckle on a mescalin trip.

Still, "Fritz the Cat" is "only" a movie, and its intellectual, moral and esthetic bankruptcy would normally warrant only passing notice. Its success with the critical community, however, escalates my outrage at the inanity of this lunk-headed rip-off of the youth culture. Only two years ago reviewers were faulting a series of films that implied kids would always be kids and that their "revolution" was just the latest peer-group enthusiasm—an attitude they now applaud in "Fritz the Cat."

Apparently film critics felt the media-inspired pressure to be "with it" back in 1970, and they shrewdly postponed expressing their hostility both to youthful energy and to social revolution. Now, with most youths having abandoned violent activism, with the drug scene receding and with Watts and Kent State only a memory, our reviewers would seem back in their own Nixonerous element.

One hardly wants to hear another rousing chorus of "Tradition," but a sentimental approach to the past—even the very recent past—may be preferable to the spurious revulsion that infects "Fritz the Cat." After all, the past remains our only route to the present and our only assurance of a future. In dismissing the political turbulence and personal quest of the sixties while simultaneously exploiting the sexual freedom sired by that decade, "Fritz the Cat" truly bites the hand that fed it.

Lee Beaupre, "Phooey on 'Fritz the Cat'," in The New York Times, Section 2 (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 2, 1972, p. 7.

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