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Review

‘Last Days of Coney Island’ short film a great success

November 5, 2015

A film that you may not hear much of, though you should definitely hear a lot of its creator, “Last Days of Coney Island” is a return to form for director Ralph Bakshi, a once large animator of adult subjects who reflects in this new work on the world he lost when he was growing up.

To talk of a 22-minute short film like this is to first talk of its legendary director, Ralph Bakshi. He was known throughout much of the 70’s and 80’s as a renegade animator, directing many adult animated films that cut across the industry at the time and did well despite the odds they were facing.

Whether it was the first X-rated animated film “Fritz the Cat” or his adaption of “The Lord of the Rings” or even the more noir-like “Heavy Traffic and “Coonskin” he found success and his crowd.

But as the years went by, and after the critical and financial failure of his film “Cool World,” he drifted away from animation, keeping to himself for most years and taking up painting.

However, he was chided into animation yet again thanks to his son and through Kickstarter raised a great deal of money to fund his project “Last Days of Coney Island,” which is a choppy, ugly, darkly humorous tribute to the world he knew growing up in the 60’s.

The plot of Last Days is hard to talk about given that Bakshi has never been one for coherent plots in many of his films. It is more his style to jump around his world and give viewers looks into the world he sees.

Given that, “Last Days of Coney Island” is simply about the interconnected lives of criminals, police, prostitutes, freaks, and cross-dressers, in the fractured and candy-coated land of Coney Island, a place that was much influenced by the lower-class Americans who called it their haven.

Bakshi has always been fascinated by lower class America due to his upbringing in the poorer parts of New York City, and the way he animates the city is something fascinating to behold. He implements his painting skill in the backgrounds of the film and creates a pieced-together, scary world that goes against the lights Coney Island is known for.

Much of the animation is rough, with lines being clearly seen in the characters and audio not synching up to many of the movements. Scenes can become chaotic as they descend into violence and chaos, but the overall effect is something that is genuine.

It is one of his darkest works, and one thing that I definitely felt was sadness while watching. People die, love is lost, and the world we all thought we lived in is changing and gone all at once. These are the things one understands while watching Last Days, and it got to me.

While some might see this film and be confused by the plot or find the animation hard to watch, I think it should be understood that this short is the concentrated form of its director, and that Bakshi has always wanted to get across just what he feels in animation.

And that is what is most appealing about someone like Bakshi: through every film he has ever done, he always fought for what he wanted to get out. He was never the kind to bend to studios or travel down what others thought was the better half. He spoke his mind and gave you exactly what he thought of the world.

This is why “Last Days of Coney Island” is an important and solemn thing to watch. Through its roughness lies the tenacity of one person who always did everything with as much heart as he could and never backed down. Its roughness is a testament to the art of animation itself and all the tribulation one goes through to create something they love.

Last Days of Coney Island is not the last work of Bakshi but a new beginning, and I cannot wait to see the next thing he pours from his soul.