The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, July 6-12

car wash

Car Wash (1976)
Directed by Michael Schultz
Rose Royce’s theme song guides this wonderful Universal near-musical, which unfolds over the course of a workday spent in and around a Los Angeles car wash (among the last to promise “hand jobs”). While George Carlin and Richard Pryor appear in small satirical roles, the bulk of the ensemble dramedy’s action is staged by lesser-known actors playing people that take pride in their work while dreaming of what to do once work finally ends. The largely African-American car washing crew’s ranks include a pair of soul singers (Darrow Igus and Otis Day); a tart-tongued cross-dressing queen (Antonio Fargas); a young convert to Islam (Bill Duke) enraged at what he considers to be wage slavery; and an older ex-convict (Ivan Dixon) struggling both to advance his station and to keep peace. The mens’ day is filled with women, including a resourceful urchin (Lauren Jones) in constant flight as she greets scorn for being a prostitute, and other girls who kill time thinking about how to unchain themselves from their own jobs. All these characters and others (such as the white schlubby car wash owner and his naively radicalized son) interact in ways resolved with light glimmers of hope. It comes to seem possible for people to treat each other with equal respect, even if they inhabit an unequal world. Aaron Cutler (July 8-9, midnight at the Nitehawk)

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