All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1154. An easy way of seeing how…
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
A proud strip club owner is forced to come to terms with himself as a man, when his gambling addiction gets him in hot water with the mob, who offer him only one alternative.
Ben Gazzara's performance here is one of those that so captures an actor's essence that it would be pointless to think about anyone else in the role. Beyond all the Cassavetes grace notes-- the dingy texture of the nightclub, the evident affection for his cast of outcasts and rogues, the dread-inducing inevitability of the title-- there's Gazzara, a wannabe big-shot who lacks the means, the common sense, and the luck to lead the kind of life he feels he deserves. His gregariousness becomes tragic.
It's been a long time since a film has instantly pushed to near the top of my favorite movies of all time. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is one of those occasions.
Cassavetes is a master of eliciting emotions through the most simple of verite style. Without broad sweeps of orchestration or tacky explanations, we truly see the troubled psyche of Cosmo Vittelli (played masterfully by Ben Gazzara) as he goes deeper and deeper down a self destructive rabbit hole in hopes of making something of himself.
I love how the strip club feels sad and dirty. I love the clown figure that works at the strip club (an ode to Sternberg's "The Blue Angel?). I love the realism…
The poster gives you an accurate representation of the shadows and moody reds that the film basks in. Released around the pivotal dirtiest city period of Taxi Driver, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie might as well be the West coast equivalent in look and feel. A Cassavetes noir. Seemingly everyone is corrupt and out to get something. The faces are lived in and molded by crime. The gangsters are dripping with sleaze and menace in equal measure.
Ben Gazzara is asked to represent this height of proud sleaze culture as the strip club owner Cosmo who is in way over his head with gambling debts. Even once filming commenced, he was hesitant in how to approach the character. Cassavetes…
So good I had to watch it twice. John Cassavetes was a unique eccentric, and having watched a handful of his films recently, he has become a new favorite director. His style was unashamedly intolerant of Hollywood formula, audience appeal and the business of Hollywood product.
He was a man who loved people and he showed people expressing themselves through a body of emotions. People have trouble communicating their thoughts into words. Cassavetes' goals were to examine human nature on a naked scale of emotion. More so than any filmmaker I can think of, he uses facial expression, body language, closeups and the visual depiction of characters interpreting their inner thoughts with their faces to elicit drama and move story.…
Portrait of the artist as a corrupt man. Portrait of the art as the byproduct of a corrupt world. What Cassavetes achieves here in terms of style is a magnificent symbiosis of references, with Ben Gazzara as his surrogate artist caught in a scenario that is at once noir, expressionist and impressionist. Plot is secondary and becomes but an excuse to delve into the characters' psychology and visions of themselves through the focus on faces and outward expressions. Style, however, is elevated to new heights of meaning as the characters move from light to shadows and back, and from inside to outside the frame. (Al Ruban's and Mitch Breit's cinematography is excellent and appropriate). The very masculine and very beautiful Gazzara (yes, that matters) is the quintessential movie man, but such an idealized impression coexists with the tragic entrapment of life's fragility. Freedom is impossible, and art can do only so much. Or something.
"Hey Hugh, it's me, your agent. Remember that script I was telling you about, 'A Chinese Bookie'? Well, I got you the part! YOU'RE the Chinese bookie! Isn't that great?" "Wow, do you mean it? That's great - this kind of exposure could really do wonders for my career. I knew I had a good feeling about that part!" "Yeah, it's gonna be great. This director, Cassavetes, he's a real actor's director. He respects the craft. It'll be hard work but you'll do great." "This is exactly the kind of opportunity I've been waiting for!"
That's show business.
I'm a Cassavetes rookie, here, so this movie about a strip club owner who gets in with the wrong crowd and is forced into violence took me by surprise. The sheer lack of music is jarring, as is the sometimes total darkness that the frame goes into. The movie goes from scene to scene without warning, sometimes skipping ahead a few minutes, sometimes jumping by hours. Its characters are sleazy, and Cosmo is never quite the good guy, but you feel for his position. He just wants to run his club, and nothing seems to go his way. It's cynical and harsh, and I'm not sure what else to make of it at the moment.
A little slow but compelling.
Really really enjoyed this one, especially in the way it creates a sense of mounting dread with its nervous, almost agitated direction and its visuals that drip in shadows, neon colours and lens flare. An overwhelming seediness and sense of desperation pervade the whole thing, despite the hero’s attempts to class up his strip joint. Ben Gazzara (whom I foolishly thought had died recently due to sucking at reading comprehension) is quite simply fantastic. I saw the 1978 re-release edit, which I’m told is more focused but inferior to the original 1976 version, so I’d be interested to see how that one compares given my strong reaction to this.
It's going to take me a while to process this one. John Cassavetes' directorial style is sometimes spellbinding, other times the slow, naturalistic nature of the film led to my attention drifting. It's all anchored by a strong performance by Ben Gazzara, and Seymour Cassel is in there being Seymour Cassel, but as a whole I wasn't quite on board with it all. I liked it more at the end than I did at the start though, so perhaps that's Cassavetes growing on me - this is the first of his films I've seen, after all...
So much of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is devoted to Cassavetes’ loudly struggling to reinvent visual and narrative forms that I fear a masterful Ben Gazzara performance was shred to ribbons. But to quote Spencer Tracy from Pat and Mike, "What’s there is cherce.”
E Street Film Society review HERE.
ben garazza's character is the proverbial small fish in a big pond and complex in his mix of sleez, generousity, and blind ambition. cassavetes' camera is at times voyeuristic, and others exploitative.
After three failed attempts at connecting with the films of John Cassavetes, I went into this 1976 effort free of any preconceived notions of finding greatness. Instead, I tried to take the film on its own terms, and it helped that I was interested in seeing how the filmmaker handled what I suppose could be called a "genre picture," in this case a gritty crime thriller with subtle noir influences. And maybe it was this more open approach, but I got more out of The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie than the other, more lauded, films of his I've seen. It isn't what I'd call a great work, or even a particularly successful one, but it did manage to catch…
"I've got a golden life."
First Cassavetes. How did I let this one get away from me for so long?There's something about the way he shoots those stagelights. Every scene is drenched in color and shadow. Long takes, jump cuts and extreme close-ups are forcibly thrown at you to keep you from getting too comfortable; any semblance of rhythm is undercut by design. A film cloaked in dread and neon and desperation, like so many great films from the decade. No resolution to be found here.
- A Trip to the Moon
- The Great Train Robbery
- The Birth of a Nation
- Les Vampires
- Citizen Kane
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Rules of the Game
- Tokyo Story
Another year, another update. 2012 List can be found here.
The following is a really extensive and great list of…
- Citizen Kane
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Tokyo Story
- The Rules of the Game