The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Casavettes, 1976)

Bookie

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie mounts Casavettes’ unique hand in raw realism via a narrowly focused narrative on a singular character’s plight of life. Shots, with a narrow angled camera–tend to bring background to the fore, intimating the character’s narrative while substantiating it through a phenomena of distance and alienation. The viewer is transformed into an observer in the crowd, a part of the mix, an active participant in the hero’s, or should I say anti-hero’s, journey.

Unlike Casavette’s features which are belabored by exposition, dialogue, and a heavy handed directorial temperament, Bookie has moments full of life, intuition, and poetry. Casavettes allows some freedom for the magic of cinema to enter the film instead of stifling the art through acts of control. The scene wherein a coffee waitress auditions and the following use of theme music during a reflective cab ride demonstrate Casavettes heretofore unseen aptitude for expressing art through aesthetic alone.

Tie this in with depth of character, subtle and succinct character denouement, and an understated use of metaphor in the facade of strip-club entertainment, and we have true example of Casavettes’ brand of American indie-art.

The film has turned my previously dismissive stance on Casavettes, unchanged previously by the impressive but flawed Woman Under the Influence.

90/100 – Amazing.

5 Stars

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About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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