a story developed with Martin Scorcese, Cassavetes tackles (and
comments on) the film noir genre. Cosmo, a club owner in heavy
debt, is pressured into committing the title act to pay off
the mob. Note: according to Ray Carney, two versions of Killing
of a Chinese Bookie exist: a 1976 edit (135 minutes) and
a 1978 edit (108 minutes). Both, Carney says, are of equal interest.
Stars Ben Gazzara.
Bookie: Martin Doudoroff
from New York, NY USA This film is another of Cassavetes' best.
Like the others in this Pioneer series, the DVD is merely adequate:
it delivers the picture and sound. Likewise, Ray Carney provides
a brief analytical essay in the insert that should be useful
to anyone not familiar with Cassavetes' film art. We're lucky
to have this film available in any form, so there's not much
more to say!
A deep dark tourtured journey into Cassavetes' psyche. Ray Carney
is the only critic who seems to understand the darkness, the
mystery of this film. His contrast between the fake mysteries
of Citizen Kane (which he calls mystification) and the real mysteries
of this film in his Cambridge book, The Films of John Cassavetes:
Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies, is nothing less than brilliant
(and devastating to Welles's Kane).
Also check out Carney's books for an account of the differences
between the two versions of The killing of a chinese Bookie.
He may be the only person in the world who has seen both. Cassavetes
presented him with 35mm prints of each before he died.
A strange, strange little
movie; shot " cinema verite, " often utilizing a hand held camera,
and murky lighting. Due to the resultant disorientation from the
documentary like directorial techniques, and the script's rather
unorthodox concepts, I wasn't quite sure what to make of CHINESE
BOOKIE. But it's all so unique, appreciation is the only possible
response (for me, least) to this film. There just isn't anything
remotely like it. If you haven't seen it, I'd encourage you to do
so. - John Fiero
This film works on a number
of levels that challenge the viewer. On the one hand, the cinema-verite
technique of the visuals, reminiscent of Raoul Coutard ("Breathless"),
really dials us into the life of Cosmo. Cassavetes delivers him as
he is: a freewheeling, caring guy trying to make his nightclub a go
without exploiting the girls who work for him. On the other, the plot,
a meandering set of tableaus that toy with cliché but never give into
them, gives the viewer an opportunity to escape the authoritarian
conventions of mainstream cinema. Cassavetes isn't worried about masking
real time precisely because his characters come to life in it. One
of the finest "organic" films ever made; a seemingly naturally paced
film about real people bracketed by the aesthetic codes of the film
noir genre. Very impressive.
You gotta see this movie,
OK? I promise you, you are not going to see this, a movie like this,
you know? Ben Gazzarra in this movie...a hell of an actor. A performance
that is, my god! I can't, I don't...he is one hell of a performer.
Oh, he plays the owner of a strip joint. These hoods come after him
for a gambling debt, which is, you know, that's one thing, but finally
they want him to kill this guy, this old chinese guy. That's how it
goes. A fantastic film! I'm serious about this, OK?
John Cassavetes' 1976 film,
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie stars Ben Gazzara as Cosmo,
a small-time L.A. strip-club owner in big-time hock to local mobsters,
who will cancel his gambling debts if he kills the bookmaker of the
title. Although a Korean War combat veteran, Cosmo isn't a professional
killer and botches the job. He is seriously injured himself and has
quickly set in motion a series of violent events from which he cannot
escape. Although not considered a "great" film by conventional standards,
director Cassavetes effectively depicts the interlocking netherworlds
of strip clubs, gambling and organized crime, and how our society
nervously coexists with them. His novel, unconstrained approach, filled
with sharp plot twists and sustained by a meandering, cinema verite-like
storyline provides a startlingly accurate portrayal of how the "wiseguys"
who own Cosmo's life conduct business; obscure, whispered half-sentences,
endlessly interspersed with profanity, near-maddening subject changes
and seeming irrelevancies; usually done late at night in cars, diners,
dim restaurants and clubs, where the violence central to that way
of life is strangely peripheral but fitfully inevitable, sometimes
unplanned and usually far more trouble than it's ever worth. Los Angeles
is depicted as an annoying, garish backdrop, something to be tolerated,
like Gazzara tolerates his marginal, emotionally stunted strippers,
a strange, corpulent version of a Joel Grey-like MC and the tawdry,
depressing aura of his club's surroundings; each scene swathed in
the persistent indifference of a big city's neverending everyday sounds.
Cassavetes makes good use of shadowy indirect closeups and slightly
blurred, off-center imagery blended with an endless stream of conversation
which seems to mean all but nothing but is somehow essential to daily
survival, even in a world perched on the fringes of respectability
It is a film that should
be experienced and not analyzed, summed up, and stuffed into a clever,
pretty little box.
My name is Haji, I am the
girl in the center of the picture. John was a wonderful man, I was
the only one he let come to dailies. He was also a gentleman,(married).
He was going to cast me again, and then he died. He was a great man
to work for , kind and decent. www.fasterpussycathaji.com
Another unendurable slab
of Cassevetes pretentiousness, why he went on trying in the face 25
years of public indifference is beyond imagining. - Leslie Haliwell
What a....strange, yet
capticating film! Cassavetes was an actor's director. This was where
he left his mark. He knew when and where his actors shoudl always
be throughout the film. He knew what to do, to convey the appropraite
message to the viewer. What is the message of this film? Sadness.
Living a life that has no substance, yet still tricking yourself into
believing it is fun and fantastic. This film is a great film to watch
because you understand that great camerawork and lighting are not
needed for a film to be great. Most surely will not care for this
film because it will be like nothing they have ever seen before, especially
in today's commercialistic world. But...you appreicate film more after
watching this. There is a greater latitude for film created after
watching this film. You'll understand what I mean when you see this
movie. If not, then oh well. - Grant McFadden
The Killing of A Chinese
Bookie is his most challenging film,but also a very complex and
rewarding film.It has some short comings,because it must have been
hard to make with such a small budget.There are definitely moments
that suggest John cassavetes in full form,so all things considered
I think everybody into filmmaking or just viewing should go out and
I haven't seen all of Mr.
Cassavetes' films, but this one is one of my favorites. Only John
could take on the trappings of b-movie gangster noir and explode it
from the inside out with the non-characters, non-dialog and non-story
he is known for. This is a great movie for Ben Gazarra's performance
Seeing this movie as the
only customer in a Brighton cinema made me appreciate all the more
its edgy properties. The reason it works as an abrupt departure from
the crime genre it echoes is is distance from the mechanics and aesthetics
of illicit activity. Think of the way the Godfather a few years before
had walked viewers through the workings of an assassination, to great
fascination. In contrast, the build-up to the title act is disjointed
and confusing, which is more or less how the protagonist would encounter
it. - Graham Barnfield, email@example.com
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