King Cohen, The Documentary

29 Jul

Image result for king cohenBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Upcoming Screenings:
August 3rd, New York City,
Alamo Drafthouse

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Larry Cohen is the maverick filmmaker, if not a sociologist in disguise. He treats cinema as a reflection on life and he coats it with a ginger touch so that there’s perhaps one degree of separation than direct outright commentary. If moviegoers have not heard of him yet, they will in the documentary, King Cohen.

His early life story is quickly told, and to understand why he loved the movies meant talking to those close to him, and those who worked hand-in-hand. Filmmakers Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Fred Williamson also express their thoughts about this magic man. But for those who were on set, they often mention his clash with the Hollywood system. I can only imagine the arguments should studio executives visit the set. Perhaps, even funnier is in how he went about “securing permission” when filming at public spaces. The best story has to come with how he went about making Q: The Winged Serpent (1982). Today, the production assistants would do a lot of wrangling to ensure safety. Cohen did not have that luxury and the chaos is nicely described. As a viewer, it’s hard not to laugh.

Richard Lewis, just one of the many collaborators interviewed for this work, said: “He takes pulpy ideas and sets them in the real world and he never loses that sense of reality, no matter how bizarre that happens to be.”

Leonard Maltin believes Cohen possesses incredible talent. Some see him as a muse for underground cinema. He’s constantly writing, and when he first came into directing, nobody in Hollywood wanted to take a chance on him. Two close friends did, and they talked about the close relationship they had with him. A second watch is needed to fully absorb this biography.

Even comparisons to Sam Fuller is made. It’s said both take on a very do-it-yourself approach to movie-making. When considering Cohen’s comprehensive filmography, he’s not stuck to a specific genre but rather is glued to knowing what makes life special in the characters he helps bring to life. In the 50’s, he contributed to the creation of the Western, Branded but not everyone knew him. He came into prominence because of his low-budget horror films. Although his output today is not as prolific as it once was, this feature film suggests he’s much more comfortable with a pen and paper by his side than working with the current studio system.

By this documentary’s end, Cohen will be like your grandpa, doting but yet cynical. After he gets his say, he will then turn to suggest skip summer school and let’s spend time at the movie theatre! Because that’s where his love for the medium started, I’m sure that’s where he will be forever immortalized. Some venue will dedicate a shrine to him.

4 Stars out of 5

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