There may be no better way to celebrate Art House Theater Day—September 18, 2019—than with a brand-new (and long overdue) 4k restoration of what is arguably the ultimate American arthouse film: Robert Downey Sr.’s subversive, rebellious Putney Swope (1969).
After the death of an advertising firm’s chairman of the board, Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson [Menace II Society]), the “token” black man on the board, is accidentally voted by the all-white board as the new chairman. He immediately flips the firm on its head, replacing all of the white staff—excepting one “token”—with an all-black staff.
Under Swope’s leadership, the firm ceases all business with tobacco, alcohol, and violent toy companies, achieving an unprecedented level of success. As he becomes more powerful socially and militant in his views, the U.S. government begins to see Swope and his firm as “a threat to national security.”
Putney Swope is an artistic and rebellious satire of corporate corruption, the portrayal of race in media, and how the white power structure in the corporate world makes it difficult for people of color to advance both professionally and socially. Its enduring effectiveness got it added in 2016 to the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for being, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Restoration by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.
“If you can tear yourself away from the contentious storyline, you’ll see crystal clear imagery and revel in the distinct, luculent audio.” — Tracy Allen, PopHorror
“Putney Swope is the greatest f**k you movie of all time” — Film Crit Hulk, birthmoviesdeath.com
“Robert Downey Sr.’s freewheeling satire of advertising, racial tensions, and the exploding (and imploding) counterculture receives a gorgeous and supplement-rich Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome that attests to the continued relevance of this cult classic.” — Bill Weber, Slant Magazine
“Putney Swope still has the refreshing feel of someone trying to tell the truth in a forum where people aren’t use [sic] to it.” — Noel Murray, Film.avclub.com