HI, MOM!

Brian DePalma’s satire of the late 60s/early 70s is a somewhat uneven affair – like two films in one. In “one of the films,” Robert De Niro plays John Rubin, apparently the same lead character from DePalma’s “Greetings” (1968), an oddball Vietnam vet who moves into an extremely rundown flat in the Village upon his return to New York (the opening scene with Charles Durning reminds me of the first landlord I had when I moved out of my mom’s apartment!). De Niro has decided to sell an idea to a local pornographer to set up an 8mm camera in his window and “peep” on the neighbors across the street. He then takes to seducing one of them (Jennifer Salt). The “second story,” and by far the more interesting and substantial one, concerns a group of radical theatre actors who are preparing an audience-participation play called “Be Black Baby” (this also provides the name for one of the film’s many songs). Their experiment to show upper-middle-class white people in circa 1970 New York what it’s like to be black in America is funny, sad, and thought-provoking. How these two stories collide and co-mingle I will leave you to discover, though I will say that it’s a bit contrived. DePalma was still beginning to bud here as a filmmaker, though he would carry his theme of voyeurism with him into such great future works as “Sisters,” “Dressed to Kill,” “Blow Out,” “Body Double,” and “Femme Fatale,” among others. A decent start if ever there was one.

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