Cassavetes, John... too classy, too artsy, too filmy for us here
at Brains On Film you say? Pashaw! Me say! Updated film noir,
mumbled lines, non-story, non-characters, non-dialogue cinema
verite'. All of this sounds like the motherload...and it is, and
I haven't even mentioned Timothy Carey yet!
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. Why? Well, when he finally pays them off,
he celebrates with a gambling spree that puts him right back in
hock with these shylocks. They will cancel his gambling debts
if he kills a Chinese bookie. Although a wiley Korean War vet,
Cosmo isn't a professional killer and screws up the job. But not
how you think. He is seriously injured himself, and has deftly
set in motion a series of violent events from which he cannot
escape. This story, partially adapted by one of the masters of
the crime genre, Martin Scorsese, sends us on the way through
Cassveteville as a cast of characters, many from the the Cassavetes
"stable" of incredible actors which included over the
years Seymour Cassel, Gazarra, Gena Rowlands (his wife), Peter
Falk, John Marley, Haji (yep, Faster Pussycat) and the remarkable
Timothy Carey, who is going to be featured in true webcast form
right here on this site for his brilliant THE WORLD'S GREATEST
SINNER, if nothing else.
With the very odd pacing, lack of any music bed and the handheld
verite' style, BOOKIE takes a while to get in your blood. Virtually
unreleased upon its completion, this one is an overlooked diamond,
albeit a very rough one whose beauty is found easiest with a few
stiff drinks. Setting up the plot really just scratches the surface
when you consider this is the most "out-there" film
that the "out-there" Cassavetes ever made. He was nominated
for Oscars, he financed his films with money he made acting in
some stellar roles in THE DIRTY DOZEN and ROSEMARY'S BABY, Cassavetes
offbeat, semi-low budget fare such as HUSBANDS, FACES, MINNIE
AND MOSKOWITZ earned him the reputation for delivering thought
provoking, sensitive stories that were not the norm for typical
BOOKIE'S depiction of the strip clubs, gambling and organized
crime are no where near conventional, and it all plays more as
a character study of Cosmo and Carey's character Flo, a legitimate
bad guy who seems to actually like Cosmo, if for no other reason
than Cosmo listens to his strange ramblings about Carl Marx, Mao
and others. Flo drops one of my favorite lines of any film, ever..."Money,
Money Is Jesus." There is a poetry to this film that is hard
to explain, but the dance all these men do, leads you to sympathize
to the point of pity with everyone's plite. Well, everyone but
the Chinese bookie, who really doesn't do much but look pretty
in his indoor pool.
Cassavetes used a fly by your ass, unconstrained approach, filled
with sharp plot twists and sustained by a meandering, start-stop-start
storyline that provides a startlingly accurate portrayal of how
the "wiseguys" who own Cosmo's life conduct their business; usually
masked in mumbles, whispers, smiles, nods, cuss words, enough
subject changes to piss off the most seasoned film maniac and
obscure, near fatal irrelevancies. The majority of this buisness
is usually done late at night in large luxury cars, diners, dim
restaurants and clubs, where the violence central to that way
of life is strangely peripheral, but inevitable, sometimes unplanned,
and usually far more trouble than it's ever worth. Both Gazzara's
Cosmo and Carey's Flo seem to fit prefectly in this style of business,
yet they seem uncomfortable with their choices, Cosmo owns a tittie
bar for Christ's sake and he is less than a happy camper, while
Flo eats, drinks and seems the jovial gangster, he really just
wants someone to listen to him since his father has passed away.
Carey's performance is pure fucking evil, not in a brutal gangster
sense, but in an artist painting a mural with his hard-on. That
same cock-suredness that keeps his pecker stiff, makes you believe
Carey is Flo, Flo is real, Flo hung around Carey's house long
after BOOKIE wrapped. Cassavetes quote about Carey perhaps says
it all. "Carey has the emotional brilliance of an Eisenstein!"
What...? and no, that is not a typo.
L.A. is featured as a backdrop, yet at the same time, it is
a tawdry L.A., not a glamourous or romantic depicition given the
subject matter. Cosmo's Wild Horse West features no music for
his strippers out side of a bizarre character known as Mr. Sophistication
who lends a Caberet feel to the festivities, which the crowd basically
ignores as they pant for more boobie. There is a subtext of interracial
loving concerning Cosmo, there is Haji topless and there is a
great scene with Cosmo checking in on the club via telephone and
no one seems to know what the hell he is talking about, even though
the staff has all worked there for several years.
Is this film for everyone, NO! Is this film for the normal b-movie
fan-boy, NO! Is this a film to enjoy a Woodford Reserve on the
rocks while wrinkling a cheap suit to? Can I get a HELL YEAH!
Cassavetes over your head Argento boys, well guess what...screw
you...in the words of Cosmo Vitelli..."The only people who
are happy are the people who are comfortable." Jumpin' hand
me that bottle. I'm getting comfortable.
Roberts as Mr. Sophistication, Fuck off Joel Grey!
|There is that pesky
|Cosmo drops his
science..."You gotta work hard to be comfortable."
Right on brother!
Gestapo Black Exploitation?
From Tobacco Row It's Good!
Squad Join Today!
Meateater Do Not Touch!
Stranger Run Run Opie!
House On Hwy 5 Sheesh!
Locked Doors It's Dirty!
Massacre Some Like It.
Pussy It had to be done
Alley It is Rock.
Woman Truck. Woman.
Freak A Classic for You!
Geek Bigfoot Porn
School Ghosthustlers Wow!
Island You Must See!
Not that kinda Cock!
Alienator Feeling Alienated?
Island Vanity and the Beast
Spree Tim Ritter's $0 budget wonder
Prof. Tread still can't sleep.
Tramp She is sumpin' else.
Footmen Tire You...? Heavy religiosity!
Knievel Evel of Course!
Killing Of A Chinese Bookie! Smart Guy.
Pink Angels Gayness, and Bikes
Burning The 80's, ahhh the 80's.
- The Winged Serpant! Larry Cohen rules!
For Your Life! WARNING Racist content
Tall Buford Pusser in the Hizouse!
Camp Internet Geeks Unite!
Losers Ya Loser!
of the Mutilated Bro. George gets busy.
Me An Angel Gal Biker and more.
Grim Reaper Reap on.
One of William Girdler's triumphs.
At Dawn A Modern Classic.
Boy Carradine, Dress, Dourif!
Hollywood Rape-Slaughter Rare expose'.
Savage Weekend. Take
Dead and Buried.
A Should-be Classic.
Summer In Barefoot County. PeeUww!
Night Train To
Terror Choo Choo!
Drink Your Blood Glug, glug!
Russ Meyer and breasts!
Stop Women Honnnk HonnnnK!
Deadly Darling! Pigs!
the Germ Fighter! Clean up!
Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? Why?!
County Express! Glug, Glug!
The Night God Screamed!
White Dog Racists
City Slickers get offed!
Times Five Sean MacGregor's Titantic!
at the Red Wolf Inn Burp!
Eyes See It
Greatest Sinner One of the best!
Baby! Goo Goo!
Camp Nightmare Viva the Revolution!
of the Beast Creatures Booga!
Play Dead Incest craziness!
of Death Vacation madness!
Come, Evil Go! Bye, Bye Sinners!
Strutters Get Black Sucker!
Pretty Eddie Deep South Craziness!
Golem Jewish Folklore or what?
NYC Apartment Blues
To Kill A Clown
Alan Alda Vietnam Vet!
Spook Who Sat Next To The Door Booya!
Woke Up Early The Day I Died Mr. Ed Wood.
Mutilation Man Andy Copp goes arty on us!
People Across The Lake Good TV!
Woman Hunt Load Up Gents.
Are The Damned Dammit!