Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Monkey Movie Report

I watched this last night because Ben Gazzara just passed away and because I had never seen it before.

The film tells the story, and I use that term loosely in connection to this film, of a night club owner who loses big at a mob owned gambling table. He's then roped into killing a Chinese bookie who is giving the mob trouble. He kills said bookie and is then double crossed by the mob, shot but not badly enough to bring him down or really inconvenience him because he escapes from the mob and returns to his club in time to squelch unrest that is fomenting behind the scenes at his establishment.

It's a weak story that's very loosely told. The film has a very improvised aura to it and you can almost hear director John Cassavetes in the background saying, "Yeah, let's put the camera there and shoot this scene with as little light as possible. Yes! It's cinematic gold baby!" The acting, the camera angles, the lighting, the cinematography all have a devil may care attitude and they have a 'shot from the hip' feel to it. In other words, this was 'bad boy throw the rule book away' 1970's film making at it's 'finest.' They all must have thought they were reinventing story telling and film making, when in reality they weren't. Sure, the film has that cinéma vérité, hand held camera shaky look, and naturalistic performances, but it's placed on a wafer thin plot that has many holes in it and the end result is the film doesn't hold up well at all. The nightclub performance scenes are all very forced, static, boring, and simply not believable and this nightclub that Gazzara's character owns is one of those movie versions of a night club that exists only in the imagination of someone who has never been to a real nightclub, it's like one of those strip clubs you see on network TV shows.

Gazzara turns in a decent if taciturn performance and character Seymour Cassel does as well. Playboy Playmate Azizi Johori, the first black Playboy centerfold I ever saw, plays Gazzara's girlfriend who is also one of the dancers in his nightclub. She's incredibly beautiful and she brings back many sweet memories of the times I held her centerfold with one hand and admired her naked body with my other.

If you're into crazy naturalistic cinema from the 1970's, then this film is for you. It's a good snapshot of a film movement from back in the day but honestly, it's not that great. Other than Ms. Johori that is.

1 comment:

Professor Chaos said...

I've never been that impressed with Cassavetes' whole what-the-heck approach to film-making. I think in some of his movies people just get swept away with how great Gena Rowlands is that they overlook the flaws.