Thursday, February 4, 2010

#181: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

1976, TSPDT Rank #359

(The following text is excerpted from a post I wrote for the Internet Film Club, an international online group that I am a part of. The content is only changed slightly for coherence in the blog. If you would like to join the film club or find out more about it, you can visit either of these websites: or Thanks for reading.)

I watched The Killing of a Chinese Bookie last week and thought it was amazing. (By the way, I watched the 108 minute cut, and I really loved the flow, I don't understand how the 136 minute cut could be better - Cassavetes didn't think so anyway.) Everything is very well done - the camerawork astounding, performance by Gazzara is top-notch and quite deep, and it's narrative is very unique. It's made to look like a gangster film from the outside, but internally, it's very much a Cassavetes film. One specific thing I noticed is that when Cosmo fires his first shot at the Chinese man, we remain in close-up on his face as he fires the shot, with the bullet hitting the body off-screen. This is quite a unique move, I know I was shaken, I was all primed for the cut but we stayed focused on the face. It makes sense though, because we as an audience have no call to care what happens to the man - we know he is going to die (at least once Cosmo enters the apartment). It seems that when Cosmo fires the shot, by looking at his face, we know that besides just killing the Chinese man, he is killing a part of himself. For better or worse, the person he had made himself up to be, the person he imagined had a lot of class, and carried himself perfectly with a strict code of conduct was being taken over by the fact that that same code had been breached, he had lowered himself to killing to erase a debt, and he begins to question who he is. The film has perfect pacing, it's compelling and fascinating all the way through, and I believe it also says something about Cassavetes' perception of the life of a film director, and all the forces they go up against. I consider the film to be the best example of Cassavetes' work and his style that I've seen so far, runner-up is A Woman Under the Influence.

(Rating: 9/10)

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