Coonskin (1975)

Coonskin (1975)

Directed by: Ralph Bakshi

Starring: Barry White, Charles Gordone, Scatman Crothers

Here’s one of those subversive underground adult cartoons by Ralph Bakshi I was talking about. Since Coonskin mostly deals with the pop culture perceptions of black racism in the 70’s and before, I’m not really sure I’m qualified to review it. I tried going into it not thinking about that aspect, but the satirization of racist imagery is just as important to the movie as the story is, if not more so. Anyway, just wanted to give that disclaimer.

The movie is basically Scatman Crothers telling a story in jail about three black men from the south, Rabbit, Fox and Bear (based vaguely off the Uncle Remus stories) who move to Harlem and take over the gangs there. They cut out the mafia, which starts a gang war between the groups. There are also just random vignettes that satirize racist depictions by making them as ridiculous as possible.

There are parts of Coonskin that are so uncomfortable that they pretty much have to be brilliant. It also uses an interesting mix of live action and animation, where sometimes the characters are played by the actual humans, or where animated characters are put in front of live action backgrounds, things like that. Due to the complete difference between the live action and the animation, it strangely feels like a better effect than it technically is, because instead of trying to make people high five cartoons or stupid shit like that, it comes across as more of an artistic choice, and that was pretty cool.

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