Francois Truffaut once stated that the American film “The Little Fugitive” was chiefly responsible for the French New Wave movement in cinema. Screening the new Kino-Lorber blu ray from the company’s Classics division, it is easy to see how this 1954 film influenced Truffaut’s 1959 masterpiece “The 400 Blows.”
Shot in stark black and white on an extremely low budget, the story deals with two brothers, the older Lennie and the younger Joey. It is Lennie’s birthday, but he must forego his planned trip with his friends to Coney Island because he has to babysit Joey. After an amusing/disturbing scene featuring Lennie and his friends thinking of different ways to do away with the younger child, they concoct a scheme where they convince Joey that he has accidentally killed Lennie. Joey runs away, hops a subway, and heads to Coney Island to separate himself from his fatal deed.
It is at this point that the film picks up. Filmmakers Ray Ashley and Morris Engel follow the seven-year-old’s journey throughout the massive amusement park, responding to it as an egalitarian society where he can collect pop bottles for deposit in order to survive. His terms for survival consist of food from vendors and enjoying the majesty of the different rides. There is a spirit of absolute freedom that permeates the scenes in the park, allowing the viewer to truly feel the escapism the child is enjoying throughout his Coney Island refuge. The dynamic that exists between the child and the rides, his small frame towered over by ticket booths and spinning, twirling amusements, allows him to complete forget the pain of his real world. It is as moving as it is exhilarating.
“The Little Fugitive” is also a portrait of Americana from another era. A small child alone in Brooklyn, taking the subway, unchaperoned, but unharmed, shows just how much more innocent life was 60 years ago.
The acting from the youngsters is especially impressive for its natural ability; especially since neither was a trained actor nor did either of them appear in another movie.
here is a link to the blu ray: http://amzn.com/B00AOCDDT4