Heavy Traffic

Heavy Traffic is a 1973 American live-action/animated comedy drama film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi. The film, which begins, ends, and occasionally combines with live-action, explores the often surreal fantasies of a young New York City cartoonist named Michael Corleone, using pinball imagery as a metaphor for inner-city life. Heavy Traffic was Bakshi and producer Steve Krantz's follow-up to the film Fritz the Cat. Though producer Krantz made varied attempts to produce an R-rated film, Heavy Traffic was given an X rating by the MPAA. The film received largely positive reviews and is widely considered to be Bakshi's biggest critical success.


The film begins in live-action and introduces the protagonist Michael Corleone, a 22-year-old virgin playing pinball in New York City while asking himself philosophical questions. As he plays on and ponders, Michael then begins to envision how he sees things as the scene then transitions into an animated and dangerous New York neighborhood. Michael's Italian father, Angelo "Angie" Corleone, is a struggling mafioso who frequently cheats on Michael's Jewish mother, Ida. The couple constantly bicker and try to kill each other at every opportunity. The unemployed Michael dabbles in cartoons and often wanders throughout the city to avoid family skirmishes and to artistically feed off the grubbiness of his environment. He regularly hangs out at a local bar where he gets free drinks from the black bartender lady, Carole, in exchange for sketches of the somewhat annoying Shorty, Carole's violent, legless bouncer devotee. One of the regular customers at the bar, a nymphomaniac cross-dresser named Snowflake, gets beaten up by a tough drunk in a hard hat after Snowflake seduces him into a lot of passionate kissing and heavy petting, during which the man reaches down between Snowflake's legs to discover Snowflake has a penis. Snowflake loves the beating due to his masochism, but the drunk causes property damage. Shorty throws the drunk out and brutally kills him soon after, while the bar's white manager abusively confronts Carole over this. Fed up with her manager, Carole quits.