Next Stop, Greenwich Village [1976]

Writer-director Paul Mazursky's transparently autobiographical Next Stop, Greenwich Village is a film of considerable charm and appeal. His alter ego in this case is Larry Lapinsky (Lenny Baker), an aspiring actor in his early twenties who leaves his Brooklyn home, kvetching mother (Shelley Winters), and hen-pecked pop (Mike Kellin) and moves to Greenwich Village, a few subway stops and several worlds away. This is the Village of the mid-'50s; Dylan and the folkies wouldn't take root there for years, and even the beat poet scene wasn't yet in full bloom. But it was the hippest place in town, filled with counter-culture artist types, and Larry, an aspiring actor, settles right in, hooking up with a gang of pals and a foxy girlfriend Sarah (Ellen Greene) almost immediately and then dealing with life's various triumphs and vicissitudes. Baker, who made only a couple more films before dying of cancer in 1982 (Greenwich Village was released in '76), is fine in the central role; an actor playing an actor, he has a field day with the rapid-fire repartee and shtick Mazursky writes for him (Greene would go on to play Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, but it's the young supporting actors, notably Chris Walken, Jeff Goldblum, and Lois Smith, who would have the more stellar careers). Overall, the film is smart and well-observed, with ample humor and warmth, along with an improvisational feel. It also tends to play very real, especially the scenes involving the two young lovers; only Winters's scenery-chewing Jewish stereotype gets tiresome. The sole bonus feature is a commentary track with Mazursky and Greene. --Sam Graham

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