“American Pop” (1981) dir. Ralph Bakshi

“American Pop” is animator Ralph Bakshi’s immensely ambitious attempt at telling a multi-generational story through the musical ambitions of one family. Beginning in Russia at the turn of the 20th century and ending somewhere roughly in the late 1970s/early 1980s, “American Pop” chronicles American popular music from ragtime to punk. It’s one of the few cinematic attempts at creating a non-pornographic (but still R-rated) animated film for adults. Sadly, it wasn’t successful at the box office.

“American Pop” is one of those movies that I wish was better than it is. But what’s there is still extremely impressive. Bakshi’s use of rotoscope animation (where live actors are filmed and the animator creates images over the live ones) is still stunning to watch even over 30 years later.

For many years, it was not available due to rights issues over the extensive soundtrack (which ranges from Scott Joplin to Jimi Hendrix, to Lou Reed to Bob Seger). However, such obstacles were cleared in the late 1990s and the film is easily available on DVD these days. Here’s hoping a remastered Blu-Ray release is in the planning.

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