“Hilly” (Hillel) Kristal was a Jewish guy from NJ who became the Godfather of Punk Rock by nurturing talented kids before they became the big names we know them as today (eg, Blondie, Talking Heads, etc).
Rickman portrays Hilly as a mensch lit from above by his own private star. Yet again truth is stranger than fiction. Very enjoyable trip down memory lane! (JLH: 4/5)
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10/17/13 UPDATE: Full review of CBGB is now Live on JUF Online: http://www.juf.org/news/blog.aspx?id=423748&blogid=13573
“Ages ago, when I was a Girl Scout, I used to love Nature Walks in the woods. Pick up a big rock and all the critters living underneath it would scurry around in the sudden sunlight. Some of the bugs and worms were gross, of course, but even so, I tried to respect their home and leave it intact so they could all return as soon as I was gone.
I am still fascinated by hidden worlds, but now I usually find them at the movies. Some very strange life forms, hiding under a Rock called “Punk,” populate the world of Randall Miller’s new film CBGB. And chief among them is a Jewish guy named Hillel Kristal who grew up on a chicken farm in New Jersey.
Like all BioPics, CBGB blends fact and fiction to tell a complex story within the narrative constraints and standard runtime of a feature film. BioPics are never “true,” but the good ones always feel “truthy.” I have no idea how much of CBGB is literally true, but it definitely feels truthy to me. I know men like Hillel Kristal, and I’ll bet you do too.
When we first meet him, “Hilly” (played by versatile English actor Alan Rickman) is in a bad way. He’s bankrupt, divorced, and living with his dog Jonathan on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It’s the early 70s, when the Bowery was Manhattan’s “Skid Row” (“shabby urban area with cheap taverns, dive bars, and dilapidated hotels frequented by lowlifes, alcoholics, and itinerants”). Who could imagine way back when that one day there would be a huge Whole Foods store on the Bowery?
Hilly lives there not because he has to but because the Bowery is his “comfort zone.” Walking the streets day in, day out, Hilly and Jonathan become neighborhood regulars. No one bothers them, and no one expects anything from them. Hilly knows he can’t get much lower; he can only go up…”
Click here to read my full review on JUF Online.
Top Photo: Alan Rickman as “Hilly Kristal.”
Bottom Photo: Inside the legendary CBGB Club. (CBGB = Country, Bluegrass, & Blues)
Photo Credits: Beau Giannakopoulos/XLrator Media