Deeply personal and willfully repellant, Ralph Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic is not the most coherent film in the entire world. It depicts the world of an aspiring underground cartoonist through a mixture of live action and animation, both of which are rendered in grotesque strokes.
Our hero is the virginal artist Mike (Joseph Kaufmann), who is introduced playing pinball. He lives a monkish existence inside a tenement apartment whose environment is a little like The Honeymooners if it were designed by Breughel and written by Tennessee Williams at his most Sophoclean. The women are mile-a-minute shrews who always seem to have a mammary breaking free from their blouse. The men are thick-lipped ethnic caricatures. They think with their dicks—which inevitably are also put on display—and are unable to control their bodily functions. Eking out an existence in the New York underbelly, they take out their impotence on their women.