Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie


Since Cassavetes is generally regarded as outside the American mainstream, his gangster movie Chinese Bookie does really stand outside the Hollywood gangster flick . After a while, all Hollywood gangsterism becomes repulsive because these movies and the characters they show are so self immersed, as if their world is besides them. Translating that into cinematic reality makes these criminals very odd as their personalities are melo-dramatized, and all kinds of psychological baggage's are given. To that extent, Cassavetes's Vitelli too is a typical Hollywood crook who entertains, for not only does he run a striptease, his main performer there, Mr Sophistication is a talking philosophising entertainer while Vitelli himself, subdued and broken, in his monologue towards the end, talks about creating a persona, a deception that consists of watching oneself perform.

Vitelli, performed with charming finesse and restraint by Gazzara, aims to make himself comfortable with himself. He too performs what eventually Cassavetes mocks, that artificial unreality which consumes lives lived in achieving little when the means to do so have left a person. In the end his person is ambiguous and so too his fate, and perhaps that is the masterstroke of this movie. Altogether, Cassavetes achieves with method and poetry what Hollywood would not have. There is the clear influence of genre crooks and criminals, parking lots, shadows and jazz. But in narrating this story, there are realistic elements that lend credibility to the imagery, which though persistently American, has the touch of a film maker whose voice is clearly distinct, American but un-American too.

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