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Автомойка (1976)

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Автомойка (1976)




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Car Wash is about a close-knit group of employees who one day have all manner of strange visitors coming onto their forecourt, including Richard Pryor as a preaching ‘wonder-man’ who is loved by most but loathed by one, and a man who looks like a thief by the way he is holding his bottle, but it is indeed his urine sample as he is off to the hospital. T.C’s love life takes a turn for the better and the songs keep coming. Written by Graeme Huggan <[email protected]>

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Performed by Rose Royce, Orchestra conducted by Paul Riser

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It is possible that in a hundred years a film like ‘Car Wash’ will have lost part of its comic effect, but of one thing we can be sure: because of its value as a document of an era, it will aspire to the term of ‘classic’ more than futile but pretty recreations of the past, such as ‘Barry Lyndon’ and the Ivory-Merchant productions, all of which may be more efficient technically-wise, but are all lacking a heart. ‘Car Wash’ is a collective and populist film about the spirit of community. It is also a maneuverability picture with a few symbols thrown in, very likely unconsciously. Since their creation, cars have always been a symbol of status: you are what you drive. The happy-go-lucky car washers suggest a ‘de luxe’ service for all: they give the business a ‘special touch’ with their multi-racial forearms –not only Negroes, but also Chicanos and native Americans–, through another symbol: water, the classic icon of purification and universal conscience. Surrounded by a group of very well defined characters (especially, since they are drawn by single strokes, or have very little screen time to develop psychological traits: they are characterized by their deeds), three persons stand out: Mr. B (capital), Abdullah (revolution) and Lonnie (goodness.) The greed and neglect of the lustful and amiable car wash possessor is contrasted with the anger and resentment of the dry and humorless political activist. In the middle comes the ex convict, who ultimately will lodge things around the film’s central issue: work. We cannot leave behind most of the issues referred to in the film in a casual way, as we normally do in daily life, and related to the numerous characters: love, religion, prostitution, parenthood, homosexuality, social climbing, class rejection, money, class fight, lovemaking, and above all, music, which is the unifying element. Norman Whitfield did such a good job, that he not only established the rhythm of the act, but its atmosphere, tone and feel. It generates such positive energy, that in the end all of the virtues that show up combined with the vices of the quick, consumerist and violent urban life, as well as the suffering of some of the characters, come to the fore: love, compassion, tolerance, patience, solidarity, friendship, happiness. That makes ‘Car Wash’ a joyful and universal parable of survival in the latter days of capitalism. And that is not an effortless achievement for a little film, directed by an African-American and aimed at a very diminished population.

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