Why Didn’t Ya Tell Me?

Posted: 30/12/2013 in 1953

Little_Fugitive_53_Andrusco_5702

Just simply gorgeous.  For all of the big budget films we have seen this year, with their big sets and high salaried actors, one of the best films of the year is the low budget, independent, hand-held camera shot Little Fugitive.   Ray Ashley and husband and wife duo Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin’s collaboration is a beautiful tale of brotherhood, love, independence, as well as a love story to New York City.  The story is simple enough–a young boy is pranked into thinking that he shot and killed his older brother, and he runs away as a fugitive to Coney Island.  Despite its simple plot, however, this film contains much more depth of meaning than many films we have seen this year.

The world of a boy finding his independence is rare thing to analyze on film, but how appropriate to do so in this independent offering.  Joey, played by the young Richie Andrusco (a non-professional actor, as is the entire cast), invites us into his world.  This is a world plagued by being the little brother, by being underestimated, and by not being given the time of day.  Regardless of the life that he is living, circumstance pushes Joey into pursuing an independent spirit, one that will involve feasting on all of the pleasures he’s always wanted to enjoy, while at the same time being resourceful in finding ways to make money, spending his first night as a homeless person, and dodging the law.  This is Joey’s world, a world that exists in the far more complicated recreational playground of Coney Island in Brooklyn.

The writing, directing, and cinematography are exquisite here, and the same team made up of Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin are responsible for all of it.  This is a team with a passion for film.  There’s no Hollywood stage here.  New York is our stage, and one of our main characters on its own.  Shooting on location with a 35 mm handheld camera is a novel idea, and it brings life and realism to this film that really could not of have been shot any other way.  While this film is indeed a love letter to childhood and a love letter to New York City, it is also a cautionary tale, a warning really, of the influence of violence through the entertainment  media on little boys.  Joey’s final scene is a powerful one, and it should not be overlooked.  The pull of violence on television and in film is something previously meditated on in Shane earlier in the year, and it is a theme that is readdressed in a completely setting here, but no less powerfully.

In the end, Little Fugitive is without a doubt one of this year’s best films.  For those of you who have proven yourselves to be independent throughout your lives, this one’s for you!

**** ~AOS

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