The Landlord

The year before Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby made his debut with this eccentric racial satire (written by the black screenwriter Bill Gunn) about the considerable challenge of gentrifying Brooklyn. Set in 1970 Park Slope—now best known for lesbians with prams—The Landlord concerns Elgar Enders (the baby-faced, weak-chinned Beau Bridges), a rich white man with nothing better to do than invest in real estate. He buys a “tenement building” in a black neighborhood, tries to take a potted rhododendron up the stairs, and promptly gets chased off the block by an ad hoc crowd of jeering neighbors. Taken one scene at a time, the satire is blissful. And there’s something compelling about watching sad, puffy Beau Bridges embody a historical force. Unfortunately, the plot is half-baked. The Landlord wishes it were about the future of America, but its forecast is just too hazy.


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