New York Times
'AMERICAN POP' GROWN-UP ANIMATION
Directed by Ralph BakshiAnimation, Drama, MusicR1h 36m
By Vincent Canby
Feb. 13, 1981
RALPH BAKSHI (''Fritz the Cat,'' ''Heavy Traffic,'' ''Coonskin'' and ''The Lord of the Rings'') continues to push animation techniques to the outer limits more frequently explored by film makers who call themselves avant-garde, but who seldom are. His newest film, ''American Pop,'' is a dazzling display of talent, nerve, ideas (old and new), passion and a marvelously free sensibility. The man may well be a genius, though that sort of pronouncement will have to wait on time. ''American Pop,'' which opens today at the Cinema 2 and Loews New York Twin Theaters, is a Pop vision of American life since the turn of the century, seen in the stories of four generations of one family of would-be American musicmakers. Though the film is animated, it makes free use also of old newsreels, still photographs and pencil sketches, as well as work in the manner of dozens of recognizable artists from George Grosz and Reginald Hopper to Andy Warhol, with passing references to Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and Norman Rockwell, among others. These references are not always successful, but the impulse to embrace so many things so breathlessly creates an excitement within the film that is hard to resist. ''American Pop'' looks like no other animated film ever made, except for Mr. Bakshi's earlier works, nor does it sound like any other. It's rough and violent and occasionally very moving, as well as cruelly funny. It begins with the story of Zalmie, a Russian Jewish boy who, following a pogrom, comes to America with his widowed mother in 1900. Young Zalmie wants desperately to succeed and seeks fame and fortune in burlesque, where he meets and eventually marries a stripper who can sing.