Shot in stark black and white like a moving Weegee photograph, Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery is a stunning piece of filmmaking instrumental in dropkicking American movie making out of the studios and onto the streets. The story here is of an alcoholic (Ray Salyer) down on New York’s skid row. It’s partly scripted but totally authentic—the bridge between documentary and neorealism. And it’s terrifying in its frankness. How Rogosin got the camera into these areas is a stroke of genius. How he depicts these derelicts is a stroke of grace. It’s not a movie that gets enough praise. But thanks to a restoration in 2006 by L’Immagine Ritrovata and a subsequent home video release by Milestone Films, On the Bowery continues to reach new audiences. And the timing couldn’t be better for more to discover as a new generation of Americans grapples with another homelessness crisis brought on by substance abuse. Now streaming on The Criterion Channel and Kanopy.
The above blurb first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 29, No. 38, “Rainbow.”
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