American Pop (1981)

The story surrounds four generations of father and sons, the events in their lives painted across the backdrop of the evolution of music. The movie begins with a young boy and his mother fleeing the chaos in turn-of-the-century Russia, where they migrate to the states. The young boy sets things off with the clamor of jazz bands in a burlesque parlor, and the movie ends in the late 70s, with a drug dealing man desperate for a start in the music business. So, the story traces some sixty years of music, offering a highly extensive soundtrack and featuring all sorts of musical genres as a way of teaching histories and cultures.

The first thing that truly caught my attention with this movie was not the story (because the story itself is pretty unusual when you’re not used to this style to begin with), but the incredible animation. Long before computer graphics and surpassing any animation styles of earlier Bakshi films, the characters of American Pop are so life-like even down to the smallest details of hair texture or breathing. I was just aghast to watch it purely for the artistic effort of the film, as it simply one of Bakshi’s best (rid yourself of those preconceived notions based on earlier Bakshi films you may’ve seen like ‘Heavy Traffic’), and certainly one of the best animated films I’d ever seen.

There are many Bakshi trademarks going on here. Some of the animated scenes get pretty wild and often mix life action backgrounds with animated foreground characters, especially during the hallucination scenes that take place during the mock Jefferson Airplane scenes. It’s quiet a scene, man.

American Pop is definitely a rich education in music as it touches on everything from radio jazz, swing, classical, rock n’ roll, psychadellia, and hell, even punk. In fact, the general elements of American Pop are often more interesting than the characters and situations. I highly recommend watching it.