Close Up

5 - 23 January 2017: The Delinquents

The Delinquents

Robert Altman
1957 | 72 min | B/W | 35mm

Shot on the cheap in his hometown of Kansas City, Altman's feature debut—on which he served as writer, director and producer—has all the surface components of a go-for-broke American independent film. The end product, however, suggests less the reckless primal scream of a young visionary than an uncommonly proficient industry calling card. Notwithstanding a bookending Public Service Announcement tacked on to placate censors, The Delinquents offers a narratively graceful and emotionally rich take on the mostly disreputable Eisenhower-era subgenre of the teenage exploitation film. In an exciting promise of things to come, Altman corrals a spirited cast of amateurs for a snapshot of the fractious cross-sections of suburban Middle America: the pampered pretty boys, the bad seeds from across the tracks, and the adults who are all-too-oblivious to their children’s changing social habits. Though more a forecast of Altman’s formidable gifts as a storyteller than his relatively avant-garde stylistic sensibilities, the film nonetheless features striking bird’s-eye-view camerawork that encourages one to see provincial conflict as the product of an interconnected community rather than mere individuals.

Part of our Robert Altman season