Watch The Landlord
- 1 hr 53 min
The Landlord is a 1970 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby and starring Beau Bridges, Lee Grant, and Diana Sands. The movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Kristin Hunter. Set in the heart of New York City's Park Slope, The Landlord is an exploration of race, class, identity, and gentrification that still feels relevant today. The story follows Elgar Enders (Beau Bridges), a wealthy young playboy who decides to purchase a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn as a way to escape his up-tight family. It is, however, the neighborhood that he falls in love with, not the house. His plans to renovate the building and kick out its black tenants run afoul of the Afro-American Cultural Center across the street, whose members are staunchly opposed to gentrification. Meanwhile, Elgar becomes romantically entangled with a number of the tenants in the building, including the beautiful and independent Fanny (Diana Sands) and her girlfriend Lanie (Marki Bey). Throughout the film, Ashby tackles issues such as race relations, the divide between social classes, and the manifestation of identity. By portraying the wealthy Enders as an ignorant outsider to minority oppression, Ashby is able to confront the viewers with the harsh reality that is present in America. Furthermore, the film's commentary on the gentrification and urban renewal of low-income neighborhoods is strikingly relevant in today's context. Bridges, who was just beginning his film career at the time, delivers a fine performance as the entitled, yet ultimately sympathetic Elgar. He embodies the white savior trope but with a twist of satire, using this to accentuate the class differences between his character and the tenants in his building. Lee Grant, who plays Mrs. Enders, Elgar's mother, is especially noteworthy, as her portrayal of an upper-class woman in grief resonates with authenticity. However, it is Diana Sands' portrayal of Fanny that truly shines, as she plays the role of the Afro-American Cultural Center activist with a mix of grace and rage. Her soft yet commanding presence, combined with her quick wit and sharp tongue, makes her character one of the most memorable in the film. Ashby's direction is equally noteworthy. He deftly navigates the film between comedy and drama with an excellent balance of tone. The satirical aspects of the film are not overbearing yet remain impactful, providing the audience with an engaging critique of society. Ashby's notable use of close-up shots and slow zooms on the characters' facial expressions bring attention to their mannerisms, encapsulating their personalities without the need for words. The Landlord's screenplay, co-written by Bill Gunn, is equally strong. The dialogue is sharp and layered, with the use of Black English Vernacular adding an additional layer of authenticity to the film. The script is not afraid to confront its audience with instances of racism, bigotry, and prejudice found within both the characters and society as a whole. Additionally, the film's soundtrack, composed by Al Kooper, features a mix of jazz and blues which further immerses the viewers into the world of the film. The opening saxophone riff is especially memorable, setting the tone of the movie from the beginning. The Landlord is an engaging and impactful film that is still relevant today. Ashby manages to tackle important societal issues through his film's exploration of the intricacies of race and identity. The film's strength lies in the honesty with which Ashby tells his story, unafraid to confront the audience with the reality of society's problems. Bridges, Grant, and Sands all deliver standout performances that elevate the film to a higher level of quality. With its combination of sharp writing, engaging direction, and excellent performances, The Landlord is undoubtedly a must-watch for anyone interested in issues of race and class in America.