Robert Downey Sr., director of American experimental films, dies at 85: NPR


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The anti-establishment spirit of writer-director Robert Downey Sr. will continue to influence a new generation of filmmakers, including directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch.

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Bob Peterson / Getty Images


The anti-establishment spirit of writer-director Robert Downey Sr. will continue to influence a new generation of filmmakers, including directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch.

Bob Peterson / Getty Images

Robert Downey Sr., the director and writer who played a major role in New York’s experimental cinema scene, died Wednesday at his home from complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 85 years old.

His son Robert Downey Jr wrote on Thursday: “Last night, my dad passed away peacefully in his sleep after years of suffering from the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.. He’s been a truly independent filmmaker, and has remained remarkably optimistic throughout.” Instagram Mail.

Downey Sr.’s absurd style and sense of irrationality have come to define his films and plays, balancing anti-establishment sentiment with the playful sense of experience that brought a truly unique era to American cinema.

breakout movie downey, Putney Soupis a satirical comedy about a black advertising executive who is accidentally hired as the head of a powerful advertising company. The film subverts the way race and power work in corporate America at a time when both were prone to raising awareness.

Paul Thomas Anderson talks with Robert Downey Sr. about his film career and Putney Soup.


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“This is the age of advertising that has become a ubiquitous and never-changing face in American life,” film critic Bilge Ebery told NPR. “He realizes that advertising addresses all sorts of things in the American subconscious.”

Downey wasn’t afraid to defy conventions in other ways either. In another of his films in 1968 No more excusesDowney plays a Confederate soldier lost in time. To shoot one scene from the movie, Downey wandered into the middle of a real baseball game—without permission—and told a player that he was looking for a “Yankees” in his character. He ended up in jail for the stunt.

“When we think of underground cinema, experimental cinema, we sometimes mistakenly have this idea that it’s all very symbolic, incredibly artistic, and full of deep meaning – and somehow you need a Ph.D. to understand all of this stuff,” Ibery explains. “If I had to compare his movies to anything today, I’d say they look like comic sketches, or even YouTube videos.”

In this way, says Iberi, it may be more accurate to take into account Someone like Eric Andre Contemporary

Robert Downey Sr. gave his son, Robert Downey Jr., his first role in a drama in 1970 fairyAnd the A movie about dogs, played by human actors waiting to be euthanized at the pound.

In a 2003 interview with Fresh airDowney Jr. reflected on his father’s artistic legacy. “He was highly respected and appreciated [as] He just said that, you know, a very innovative guy. “I knew my dad was something really, really, really special.”


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