HAL ASHBY’S THE LANDLORD — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Landlord was Hal Ashby’s first film, and it was based on the 1966 novel by Kristin Hunter, with an adaptation by Hunter and influential American writer/director Bill Gunn, whose film Stop is something of unreleased cinematic legend. Beau Bridges starred in the leading role as a moneyed landlord of an inner-city tenement, a man totally oblivious to the fact that his renters are low-income residents who value the rule of the street before anything else. He’s got an idea to have all of the residents evicted, thus allowing for the chance to overhaul the crumbling building with the plans of creating a luxury home for himself. Featuring a supporting cast which included Oscar nominee Lee Grant, Louis Gossett, Jr., Diana Sands, and Pearl Bailey, and shot by the legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, The Landlord served as a clear launching pad for Ashby’s interest in class distinction, social values, and the unique ways that interpersonal relationships shape the world around us. The film was produced by Norman Jewison (Ashby had served as his editor on four previous pictures), and now seems like some sort of lost cinematic relic, overshadowed by bigger, splashier films on Ashby’s incredible resume. But it still packs an emotional and humorous punch, while also serving as a fairly scathing and satirical indictment of a particular type of person at a particular juncture in American history.

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