Cracking Up

Jerry’s directorial swansong, Cracking Up is one of the strongest doses of unadulterated, Percodan-laced comedic madness you’ll ever witness on 35mm; we can’t say what Jerry’s intent might have been here beyond getting some yucks, but what he concocted is not just an assault on filmic conventions and comedy norms, but reality itself. The film’s setpieces revolve around a middle-aged weakling in extensive therapy, as he tries to figure out what went wrong with his pathetic life. This apex of pure head-scratching, stultifying insanity takes Jerry’s trademark anarchic live-action cartoon style, and modulates/slows/extends it all to the breaking point, resulting in a singular brand of spectacle as entertaining to stare at with mouth agape as it is to chuckle at. The absolute highlight here is Jerry’s tête-à-tête with Zane Busby (Up In Smoke’s Jade East) as an encyclopedic waitress, easily worth the price of admission alone. Cracking Up comes off as so formally brazen that the end result of this Airplane-style gag-fest was avant-garde enough to appeal to academically-inclined critics — Jonathan Rosenbaum sandwiched it between Bresson’s L’Argent and Kiarostami’s Fellow Citizen on his “Best of 1983” rundown (the only English-language pick on the list.)
Dir. Jerry Lewis, 1983, 35mm, 89 min.

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “Cracking Up”!

Watch a truly amazing moment from “Cracking Up”!
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