20 Nov 2009

Last night I watched "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" (1976), a John Cassavetes-directed film noir - mainly because I've read about Cassavetes for years without ever having seen one of his films. This film is one of his most celebrated and is very highly regarded by professional and semi-professional cineastes.

At the rest of committing cinematic heresy - this director has a mighty reputation - I will state that at 135 minutes I found it overlong, self-indulgent and tedious. The directing is way too loosey-goosey for my taste; I like taut productions. Cassavetes' fans claim that this film was fully scripted out, but the dialogue in some scenes appears to have been improvised - and not well. Much of it reminded me of being conversationally cornered by some drunk at my mother's cafe near the close of business. There are some plot holes, too: at one point the protagonist runs and walks around with a bleeding bullet wound in his side to apparently no effect or blood trail.

When confronted with negative reviews on the IMDb message board Cassavetes' supporters claim that, "This is a deeply personal vision - Cassavetes didn't make this film for you." Okay, fair enough. I'll watch films by directors who do make films for me. There are plenty: Fritz Lang, Michael Powell, David Lean, Anthony Mann, William Wyler, etc.

Still, the film wasn't entirely a waste of time as it featured Timothy Carey. (Pictured above.) Do you know him? He's one of the most thorough and convincing psychopaths in all of film noir - and that's saying something as the genre is rife with memorable nutjobs. He's especially good in Chinese Bookie. He was also a surprising bit of weirdness in Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing," given the assignment to shoot a thoroughbred horse during a race.

How does one describe his film persona? You know Kramer in "Seinfeld?" Sort of like him, except mumbling, sadistic and scary. Read his IMDb bio - it's really amusing. This article is good, too. I think I'm going to have to see his self written and directed production "The World's Greatest Sinner" (1962). I bet it's in the Cult section of Video Vault...

The Zonks: I mentioned this obscure 1960's band yesterday and got the following message: "Just wanted to let you know... I saw the same DQ photo about three years ago and it was the inspiration for the book 'We Were the Zonks.' I recently discovered Buzz Andrews, one of the boys in the band, on the web too. But as of yet I have not had time to contact him. The website thezonks.com is not his old band, its my new book about the photo that I saw. Just thought you might like to know! - jim"

Got that? Not the same band but a book about the photo of the band hanging in Dairy Queen stores. Glad we got that settled.

I played the church's Kawai KG-2D grand piano last night after scouts again, muddling through "Scarborough Fair." I just love the tone of that instrument, and the keyboard touch feels so right. (Especially compared to my troubled spinet.) From an Internet review: "...The KG-2D was a very popular piano, with a sound that was on the 'mellow' or 'warm' side. Kawai recently replaced it with the KG-2E, a much brighter, jazzier sounding piano (perhaps more like a Yamaha?), which had an improved action design. Dealers complained a lot because they really liked the sound of the KG-2D, so Kawai came out with the KG2S, which has the new action design but also the warmer sound."

The closest regional Kawai dealership is on the Rockville Pike in Bethesda. One of these days - when I improve - I want to go there and play their grands and baby grands, just to see what the prices, sounds and differences are. I am eager to check out that Millenium III carbon fiber action.

But, in the meantime, I'll content myself to have a nice weekend instead. Leaf blowing/vacuuming/bagging is in the works, sadly. And piano. My plan is to have "Scarborough Fair" so smooth that when I play it somebody will ask, "Is your name Simon or Garfunkel?"

Have a nice weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Video Vault didn't have "The World's Greatest Sinner." Drat.



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