February 7, 2013

Morris Engel's LITTLE FUGITIVE Is Amazing (And At Film Forum)

Over the weekend, I went to Film Forum and saw a film called LITTLE FUGITIVE. Directed by Morris Engel and shot in beautiful 35mm black and white, the feature tells the simple story of a boy who runs away from home to Coney Island circa 1953. But what is truly amazing is Engel's cinematography, some of it shot clandestinely with a handheld 35mm camera that he created specifically for the shoot. There are some stunning images, like the one above of the said fugitive hanging out under the boardwalk. 

Also notable is the performance of the lead, a non-acting Brooklyn kid named Richie Andrusco. (He was actually at the screening before the one I attended to do Q&A and is a man now in his 60s.) Andrusco gives a remarkable spunky performance, along with other non-actors in the film, as he scavenges the beach for bottles, ride ponies (real and fake), and tries his scrappiest to survive in old New York.

LITTLE FUGTIVE is said to have inspired Francois Truffaut's 400 BLOWS (one of my all-time favorites) and, Truffaut claims, the entire French New Wave movement. You can definitely see hints of Antoine Doinel and his troubles, as well as the handheld cinema verite style which became the hallmark of the nouvelle vague. But this picture is lighter, cornier and filled with Americana, like the scene of the fugitive devouring a slice of watermelon. Ultimately, the movie is an utter delight and well worth checking out...today is its final day at Film Forum.