Blu-ray Review: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz [Fun City Editions] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Studio: Fun City Editions

Jan 04, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


In 1940s Montreal, young Duddy Kravitz has outgrown his poor Jewish neighborhood. As he watches his grandfather toil over a garden that’s no more than a few square feet of soil surrounded by concrete, he dreams of giving him a real piece of land to farm. Duddy’s not content to follow in his cabbie father’s working-class footsteps, and is too proud to accept handouts from his wealthy uncle. Duddy is going to find his own fortune as an immensely gifted hustler.

Duddy takes a summer job waiting tables at a resort and uses his tips for seed money, building an increasingly lucrative empire of side hustles. He becomes a videographer, a film distributor, a pinball machine supplier, drug smuggler and, eventually, a landowner, as he buys up farm parcels with his eye toward opening a lakeside resort. Along the way he assembles a misfit company of co-conspirators, including a gentile girlfriend, epileptic truck driver, an alcoholic expat film director, and a local mob boss. Many fall for Duddy’s spirited enthusiasm, only to get hurt when he betrays their trust in his single-minded pursuit of wealth.

Richard Dreyfuss famously hated his performance in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), fearing that it would turn audiences against him as a young actor. To see his point, Duddy is a pretty nasty fellow – he’ll lie, cheat, steal, and screw just about anyone over if it means that it will get him a few bucks closer to his next financial goal. Despite his personal distaste for the part, Dreyfuss’ performance is quite strong. His Duddy is charming enough to make viewers understand why people buy into his schemes, but is highly frayed around the edges. His Duddy fidgets and scratches himself constantly; he’s a persistent ball of nervous energy, barely able to conceal his contempt for those around him. While Duddy is a frustrating hero, we’re shown the causes behind many of his neuroses. It can be a delicate job to play a character as both despicable and sympathetic, but Dreyfuss balances it finely.

Fun City Editions’ Blu-ray of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz comes packing a new 4K restoration. Film historian and pre-eminent Showgirls scholar Adam Nayman provides an enlightening commentary for the film which positions it within Canadian film history, explores where it diverges from the source novel, and points out moments where director Ted Kotcheff’s stylistic choices outshine his workman-like reputation. Nathan Holmes’ booklet essay gives more background on Kotcheff and his friendship with novelist Mordecai Richler, and looks at how the latter used his writing to portray Canadian life from angles rarely seen by outsiders.

A breakout hit for the Canadian film industry, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is an engaging picaresque with a wonderful supporting cast. (Denholm Elliott’s snobbish drunk, Randy Quaid’s saintly dope, and Joe Silver’s fatherly businessman are three standouts.) It’s Dreyfuss who holds this tragicomic tale together, however: he really makes the shameless Duddy hard to dislike.

www.funcityeditions.com/films/duddykravitz




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