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THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE

Director: JOHN CASSAVETES

U.S.A| • 1976 • COLOU • 110 MIN.


CHINESE BOOKIE INAUGURATES A PERIOD OF CASSAVETES CINEMA WHERE ONE CAN ALMOST TALK IN TERMS OF GENRE MOVIES. ‘ALMOST’, BECAUSE THE GENRES THAT BOOKIE, OPENING NIGHT AND GLORIA CAN BE SLOTTED INTO—THE GANGSTER MOVIE AND THE BACKSTAGE THEATRICAL DRAMA— ARE CLOSE COUSINS ANYWAY TO CASSAVETES’ MOST PERSONAL THEMES.
Bookie stands out because it’s the film where the tension between the genre and the film Cassavetes wants to make of it is most obvious. In fact, the problem that the film sets for Cassavetes is also the one that his hero wrestles with: Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) is a man who just wants to do his own thing, run an idiosyncratic little strip club in LA, and finds himself being resentfully drawn into the machinations of a group of hoods when his weakness for the stylish gesture runs him into gambling debts. With a hole in his side that may or may not be fatal, Cosmo at the end refuses to play his part in a doomed film noir scenario—because the show, simply, must go on.

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