Cast & Crew
Sally, living in Chicago, is pregnant and seeks an abortion. At the same time, she dismisses her boyfriend, a young sculptor who begins a search through the streets of Chicago for the prophet Elijah. An old tramp emerges from the waters of Lake Michigan, and the sculptor follows him. At one point the old man gets into the back of a delivery truck with the name "Goldstein" stamped on its side, seemingly guided by an invisible driver, and throws out some electrical and household appliances. At another point the old man is chased through a sausage factory by a guard; he is rescued by the sculptor, and the guard ends up in a meatgrinder. Later, Sally is operated on by two eccentric abortionists. Meanwhile, the sculptor has lost the old man and searches the city for him. His beatnik friend Jay tries unsuccessfully to borrow money from his wealthy father; then he steals his father's credit card and escapes, leaving the sculptor alone to continue his search for the man whom he believes to be Elijah. Novelist Nelson Algren makes an appearance, and the sculptor stops to listen to him before continuing his search. He runs from the city streets out to the lake shore to find the old man. All he finds is the tramp's hat, floating on the lake's surface.
Tony T-ram Del
Ronald S. Klein
Kaufman was attending the University of Chicago's master's program in history when he and his wife, Rose, decided to move to Europe in the early 1960s. Avid movie-goers, the Kaufmans became enamored with the innovative European films of the time, especially the New Wave and the Italian Post-Neorealists. Kaufman was not only excited by the fresh style of French, Italian, and Swedish cinema but also by the idea that these directors treated film as an art form. After returning to Chicago, Kaufman met author Anais Nin, who was speaking at the University of Chicago, and it was Nin who encouraged him to make his first film.
Shot entirely in Chicago, Goldstein was written and directed on a shoestring budget of $40,000 by Kaufman and his partner, Ben Manaster. The film is a modern-day interpretation of the story of Elijah, a prophet who supposedly heralded the end of time. In Kaufman and Manaster's version, Elijah takes the form of an old hobo, played by theater actor Lou Gilbert, who walks out of Lake Michigan to wander the South Side of Chicago. He crosses paths with several city dwellers, including a sculptor, an ineffectual cop, and a lonely old woman. He touches their lives by instigating change, causing trouble, or prompting them to divulge their frustrations or feelings, revealing more about the characters and the society they live in than the old man. The film is titled Goldstein, but there is no attempt to suggest that the old man is, in fact, the title character. "Goldstein" is never spoken in the film and appears only on the side of a beat-up delivery truck on which the old man hitches a ride. At the end, the old man dances along a beach, unaffected by his adventures and his impact on the lives of others.
Kaufman was directly inspired by the French New Wave and by the burgeoning independent movement in America that included John Cassavetes and Shirley Clark. Like the New Wave and Cassavetes, Kaufman used a minimal crew and documentary-like techniques to shoot in the streets of Chicago, capturing the same sense of freshness, spontaneity, and playfulness. The loose narrative with its enigmatic conclusion, in addition to the natural lighting and the documentary-style camerawork, are the opposite of the traditional Hollywood conventions typical of the time.
Unlike Cassavetes and the Film School Generation, Kaufman made his first two films in Chicago. While not a hub for filmmaking, the city does have an important albeit sporadic place in film history that is rarely acknowledged. In addition to being a center for educational and industrial filmmaking, Chicago spawned a documentary scene during the 1960s that involved students from its universities, including the University of Chicago. The city also had a thriving club and comedy scene with many talented entertainers who went on to enjoy substantial careers.
Kaufman tapped into that pool of performers when casting Goldstein. The legendary improv troupe Second City was just taking off when he and Manaster began looking for actors. Severn Darden and Anthony Holland, who play the art-loving abortionists in one of the film's most caustic sequences, were members of Second City as were Del Close, who plays a sinister-looking doctor, and Jack Burns, the annoying, bungling cop. Darden, famous for his offbeat, intellectual humor, cofounded Second City, while Close, a renowned teacher of comedy, is considered a major influence on modern improvisational theater. Burns became a highly recognizable figure on television variety shows with his comedy partner Avery Schreiber. Viola Spolin, who plays the lonely woman in the apartment, was an acclaimed acting teacher who wrote Improvisation for the Theater (1963), an important text on improvisational techniques in acting.
The loose narrative structure of Goldstein allows for tangents and twists unrelated to the actual plot. One of the most unusual sequences occurs when acclaimed Chicago writer Nelson Algren sits in his office and recounts the tale of Lostball Stahouska, who--as Algren explains it--"musta been innocent of something." Algren was a Chicago legend who saw himself as a spokesperson for the outsiders, the economically oppressed, and the disenfranchised. During Algren's scene, the camera pans across his bookshelves to reveal photos of boxers and bare-breasted women among the classic works of literature--a combination of cultured tastes and nonconformity that was Algren.
Kaufman and Manaster shot Goldstein in real locations, partly for economic reasons and partly as a stylistic choice. They shot in the apartments of friends and families as well as on familiar streets and recognizable locales. Some of the locations have long since disappeared, making Goldstein a kind of historical document of Chicago fifty years ago. At one point, the old man is chased into a meatpacking plant, a scene shot on location in a kosher meatpacking facility. Shots of sausages wiggling down a conveyor belt make the factory seem like a surreal, almost comic setting. From 1865 to 1971, the city was the meat processing capital of America, with the industry centered around the Union Stockyards on the near South Side. In its heyday, the yards encompassed one square mile, and the pens could hold 75,000 heads of cattle, 50,000 sheep, and 300,000 hogs. The dirty, harsh conditions of the meat-packing factories and stockyards helped define the city and its residents as tough, gritty, and resilient. The Union Stockyards closed in 1971; today, only one slaughterhouse/meatpacker remains in business.
Other Chicago locations that give Goldstein its unique sense of place include the city's neon-laden movie-palace district with its huge marquees, including the city's Cinerama theater, the McVickers. Most of these huge movie palaces were eventually demolished or converted. Among the most striking locations is the Oriental Institute Museum, which houses artifacts and statuary from the Nile Valley, Persia, and Mesopotamia. In one scene, the sculptor and his girlfriend argue over their relationship as they wander among the statuary and artifacts of the museum's Egyptian collection. The alien imagery from an ancient culture gives the scene a moody, uneasy tone that parallels the alienation between the two lovers, particularly when the couple passes by a statue of a blank-faced man and woman bound together forever in stone-cold immortality.
The independent scene was minimal at the time, and there were few theaters to exhibit movies made outside the confines of Hollywood. However, Kaufman made the most of what little exposure his film managed to get. Goldstein played at the independently run Carnegie in Chicago, where Francois Truffaut managed to catch it while he was in town. In New York, it played on the same bill as a short by an unknown NYU film student named Martin Scorsese. Kaufman entered Goldstein into the Cannes International Film Festival, where it shared the Prix de la Nouvelle Critique in 1964. For Kaufman, among the most memorable responses to the film was a remark made by French master director Jean Renoir, who declared Goldstein to be "the best American film he had seen in 20 years."
Producers: Zev Braun, Philip Kaufman
Director: Philip Kaufman, Benjamin Manaster
Screenplay: Philip Kaufman, Benjamin Manaster
Cinematography: Jean-Phillippe Carson
Music: Meyer Kupferman
Film Editing: Adolfas Mekas
Cast: Lou Gilbert (Old Man), Ellen Madison (Sally), Tom Erhart (Sculptor), Benito Carruthers (Jay), Charles Fischer (Mr. Nice), Severn Darden (Doctor), Anthony Holland (Aid), Nelson Algren (Himself), Jack Burns (Truck Driver/Policeman), Mike Turro (Guard).
by Susan Doll
Goldstein - GOLDSTEIN - Philip Kaufman's Debut Film
Facets Video presents the B&W film with a lengthy Philip Kaufman interview.
Synopsis: An Old Man (Lou Gilbert) rises out of Lake Michigan and interacts briefly with a few creative people as he drifts merrily through Chicago, at one point riding in a truck from the Goldstein Company. A metal sculptor (Tom Erhart) looks for the old man while trying to patch up his relationship with Sally (Ellen Madison). She discovers she's pregnant and makes arrangements for a bizarre out-of-town Doctor (Severn Darden) to perform an abortion. The sculptor asks his father for help and brings along his friend Jay (Benito Carruthers), who lifts the father's wallet. Jay uses some of the money to bankroll a night with some fancy ladies, while the sculptor continues to search for the inspirational Old Man.
Goldstein is far from being completely abstract, but it clouds its plot line to the point that normal narrative clues are obscured. We think we're concerned for the film's central couple, but Sally drops from the picture after a mock-comic abortion scene (surely shocking for 1965) that turns into a performance piece by Severn Darden and his preening assistant Anthony Holland. The sculptor expresses concern for Sally but shifts his interest to finding the missing Old Man, as if the Old Man were a magical creature capable of granting wishes. It's implied that the Old Man may represent the sculptor's creative spirit - he similarly inspires a violinist, while pushing him in a wheelchair and blocking traffic. This central conceit joins Goldstein to Federico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits in which Lou Gilbert played a similarly addled grandfather.
Author Nelson Algren (The Man with the Golden Arm, Walk on the Wild Side) shows up for a lengthy dialogue scene, one of many that serve no precise purpose - the script operates on the loose "let the magic happen" model associated with many dreary student films and the occasional breakthrough masterpiece. More often than not, the "magic" turns out to be easily-interpreted symbolism, as when the Old Man happily jettisons modern appliances and a television set from the back of a moving truck.
Goldstein was apparently a raving success at Cannes, a reaction difficult to reconcile with the picture we see. It's interesting enough, but seems too aware of its mission as an American art picture. It hasn't much of a sense of humor and far too much of its running time is devoted to open-ended non-scenes: Characters drift around Chicago without much rhyme or reason. It seems tailor-made for progressive 60s festival audiences ready to applaud anything that thumbs its nose at conventional, linear filmmaking.
Kaufman of course went on to a sterling career, making interesting genre films (The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as well as character studies about artists on the edge (Henry & June). Some of his pictures practically invent their own genre, like The White Dawn and The Wanderers. His next movie, Fearless Frank would be a second shoestring Chicago effort starring many Second City/Compass Players and introducing Jon Voight. A bizarre and sometimes incoherent superhero fable, it attempts a flip satirical attitude akin to Jean-Luc Godard. MGM/Sony should really try to find a way to bring it out.
Facets' DVD of Goldstein is a satisfactory transfer of a rather good but not perfect B&W print of a low-budget film from forty years ago. The 1:33 flat image has its share of dirt and instability. The well-recorded audio track alternates Meyer Kupferman's playful music with natural sounds and clear dialogue.
A Conversation with Philip Kaufman is an interview extra that allows the director to explain many of the production circumstances around Goldstein. He's an intelligent and interesting speaker with a tendency to name-drop prestigious European filmmakers. Kaufman doesn't explain why his film is credited to both him and another director, Benjamin Manaster, who isn't mentioned once.
For more information about Goldstein, visit Facets Nulti-Media.
Goldstein - GOLDSTEIN - Philip Kaufman's Debut Film
Location scenes filmed in Chicago. 1964 Cannes Film Festival running time: 115 min.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1965
Philip Kaufman's first credit as a feature director, although the following year he made his first solo effort.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1965