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PUTNEY SWOPE

PUTNEY SWOPE

  • Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
  • Starring Arnold Johnson, Stan Gottlieb, Allen Garfield
  • presented by The Badlands Collective
  • 1969 | 85mins | USA | rated (18)

Described by Martin Scorsese as “an essential part of that moment when a truly independent American cinema was born,” the films of Robert Downey Sr. (a prince) are transgressive, surreal and hilarious. Putney Swope is his most accomplished and successful feature, and it stands as a key 1960s satire, driven by the same anarchic spirit that fueled films like Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964), Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967) and William Klein's Mr. Freedom (1969). It’s the story of the token black man (Arnold Johnson) on the board of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, who is inadvertently elected as chairman and begins taking the company in a radical new direction. “I’m not going to rock the boat. Rocking the boat is a drag. What you do is sink the boat!” he proclaims, but Downey’s film is a raucous and provocative portrait of a capitalist system where “Truth and Soul” are the first casualties.


Putney Swope was an unexpected underground success in 1969 and made a big impression on subsequent generations of independent filmmakers. Boots Riley has acknowledged the film’s influence on Sorry to Bother You (2018), and it was a major inspiration for Paul Thomas Anderson, who paid homage with the firecracker scene in Boogie Nights (1997), as well as naming Don Cheadle's character Buck Swope and casting Downey in a small role.


The Badlands Collective is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film The New York Times described as “funny, sophomoric, brilliant, obscene, disjointed, marvelous, unintelligible and relevant” with a rare 35mm screening at the Prince Charles Cinema.