Close Up

1 - 17 October 2015: The Panic in Needle Park

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The Panic in Needle Park
Jerry Schatzberg
1971 | 110 min | Colour | DCP

The nickname for Sherman Square Park on 72nd and Broadway and a haven for junkies during the Lindsay years, Needle Park follows Bobby, a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen through the cold, corrupt powerlessness of their addiction to heroin.

"One of the quintessential expressions of early 1970s American cinema, Schatzberg’s second feature centers around a fragile woman who, like the characters its co-screenwriter Joan Didion’s early novels, has been set adrift by recent trauma and overly dependent relationships. Shot on location in a wintry and desolate New York City, Panic in Needle Park offers an undaunted and fascinating vision of the secret world of drug addicts with an electrifying Al Pacino – in his first starring role – as a small time hustler and addict and newcomer Kitty Winn as the naive Midwesterner enraptured by his energetic charm. Panic in Needle Park is both a poetic and deeply touching love story and a vivid, documentary-style rendering of the squalor and fear felt by addicts drifting like ghosts through the dirty flophouses, cheap diners and trash-strewn sidewalks of the Upper West Side. Eschewing a music track and any direct appeals to sentimentality, Schatzberg imbues the film with a verité quality that lends an air of wrenching, tragic inevitability to the doomed lovers’ tale." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our New Hollywood season