Director: Ralph Bashki
Stars: Joseph Kaufmann, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Frank Dekova, Terri Haven
Any true fan of animation knows the name Ralph Bakshi. And in 1973, Bakshi unleashed his greatest film upon an unsuspecting public, Heavy Traffic. The movie revels in everything that feature-length cartoons had always avoided: violence, drugs, booze, and lurid sex. Heavy Traffic takes place in the pre-Giuliani New York where crime, drugs, and porn shops were the mise-en-scène of the city. The movie focuses on a young cartoonist (inspired in large part by Bakshi himself) who loves pinball (the game becomes a symbol for city life). He experiences hatred and racial tension firsthand, as the viewer is brought along on a journey through a world that is simultaneously strange and all-too-real.
At a time when Disney was using animation as a way to warm our hearts, Bakshi was using it to poke and prod at social mores and conventions. Heavy Traffic is a movie that exposed the underground culture at the time like a raw, open wound. —JS