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Film "Born to Win"

See film at http://www.archive.org/details/BorntoWin

Feature film starring George Segal, Karen Black, Hector Elizondo. Robert DeNiro plays a small part: it was his first film for a major studio. The critic Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker magazine: "An unjustly neglected film...George Segal gives his most prodigious and imaginative performance as a hipster junkie who is so giddy tht he really digs the hustling lower depths he inhabits...

From IMDb: The seventies' bleakest--and one of the best
Author: matthew wilder (cosmovitelli@mediaone.net) from los angeles

One of the great joys of being a movie addict is loving unreasonably. There's probably no rational way to convey my adoration for this 1971 Ivan Passer movie, which was made for nothing back in the day when movies like this actually could get made and released--today, it'd be shot on digital video in someone's basement and never see the light of day. George Segal gives one of the performances of his career as J, a hairdresser turned heroin addict who vamps his way through the day with a torrent of improvised Lenny Bruce hipsterisms. Karen Black is the "straight," broken girl who falls in love with him for no good reason except that he's broken too--I can't think of a more haunting moment in a movie romance than the one where she drops him off in midtown Manhattan to score dope and implores, "J--remember to come back home." The movie fleetly conveys the romance, the soft-edgedness and wombiness of heroin--and then in short order takes you all the way down to the bitterest consequences. And it reminds you of the beauties of hard-knuckle, dirty-formica naturalism--pleasures unavailable to more stylized or more conceptual pictures. Has there ever been an actress as free as Karen Black? The way she lifts up ten fingers, over and over again, to count off the number of men she's slept with; or the strange little hair-bite she does when she oaths her love to Segal on the beach--everything is as fresh and unaffected and right as if it were playing out in your living room right this minute. The locations, the smoky, salty, funereal-blues soundtrack--Ivan Passer can't put a foot wrong in this movie. Why is this guy not being given all the work in the world? And why is this movie not acclaimed a masterpiece in a world where rusty chestnuts by Rafelson and Bogdanovich are still held in high esteem?

Classic early Passer and G. Segal!
Author: shepardjessica from sparks, nevada

This TOTALLY, except for the cool critics (including Pauline Kael), was written off by a bad check, probably because it was another foreign director (like Milos Forman) cashing in on the real GOLDEN AGE of cinema (for America, for sure). That stuff doesn't matter. George Segal, one of the genius actors of the late 60's and 70's, gives an incredible performance as "J" the junkie, AFTER establishing himself as the comic everyman for five years. He's already done King Rat in 1965 and was nominated in 1966 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, I won't even list this dude's accomplishments in a VERY timely era and film space and he was very good. Paula Prentiss (AS ALWAYS) is wonderful, Hector Elizondo, Karen Black and a host of New York unknown stage actors will blow you away with this film. They've changed the title. OH, I FORGOT, Robert DeNiro is GREAT in this in a small role (but a good one).

Nobody cares about junkies ...and why should they? This film isn't about street fixers; it's about New York City in that time period. It's just a wonderful film. It has everything the other COOL films of the 70's had, except marketing - and it blows away Panic in Needle Park with Pacino and Kitty Wynn (a good film), but the message wasn't LEFT or RIGHT enough, even to the people who appreciated that great era of AMERICAN films and this one (like many) was directed by a FOREIGNER (a great director). I'm just babbling here now; Find this film; I found it on Video and I hope to God it's on DVD by now. It's a smooth trail of NYC hopeful desperation at the bottom of that barrel, but you won't regret the trip. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = George Segal. Find it, if you're interested in great movies of that era that didn't make a million bucks!

Paging Martin Scorsese, 19 June 2003
Author: laursene from New York NY

... not to direct - Ivan Passer's a master who ought to have steady employment and somehow doesn't. But can someone request Scorsese to get behind a restoration of this fine film? It may have been made on a low budget, but that's no reason why the only way to see it anymore is on disgracefully butchered videotapes that leave the story in fragments and turn the color photography into mush (I doubt it was quite this bad when originally released).

I recall from Pauline Kael's review back when it came out that "Born to Win" was dumped on the market and hardly got an audience even then. Maybe with a decent restoration, and a nice DVD transfer, it can finally get some justice? And Ivan Passer can finally get some good projects to work on?

On the critical note, and having seen both Born to Win and Midnight Cowboy again recently, I can say that Passer's film holds up a hell of a lot better than Schlesinger's rather more pretentious contraption. Less showboaty, but also far less sentimental and way more powerful. And a good job by the whole cast.

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Sadly but perhaps not surprisingly, I'd never heard of this film until reading this. Thanks for clueing me in, David.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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"Born to Win"

I must apologize for the quality of the video I've posted. It's free on the internet & evidentally was taken from a bootleg dvd that came out a few years ago. The original film, though dark, noirish, & hyper-realisic was actually well shot & edited. This copy has been botched & butchered a bit. I hope, nevertheless, that you enjoy it on some level.