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American Hot Wax

“The trash critic for The Village Voice put this in his ‘1978 Top Ten'; so did the same paper's avant-garde critic. To this writer it was flatly Number One. Covering a week in the life of founding rock 'n' roll DJ Alan Freed, set in New York City just before Freed's fall in the payola scandals of 1959, this film moves: it's one surprise after another, and though the facts are jumbled, it's also the most emotionally accurate rock 'n' roll movie ever made. The almost forgotten over-the-shoulder aesthetics of Preston Sturges crowd the edges of the screen, and those edges contain so much mixed-up action, talk, sweat and desire they often simply wipe out the plot, which is only formally claiming the center of the frame anyway. What we have here, along with bits and pieces of more than fifty classic rock songs, a big on-stage finale, and a handful of unforgettably lovely street-music set pieces, is the best recent proof of Manny Farber's theory of termite art, wherein the moviemaker blindly feels his way through the barriers of his material - for no more reason than to get to the other side, and maybe take us with him. With Tim McIntire (in a beautifully underplayed, doomstruck performance) as Freed, Laraine Newman as Teenage Louise, Chuck Berry as Chuck Berry, and lots more.”

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