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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie 

John Cassavetes

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Directed by: John Cassavetes
(Criterion Collection)
John Cassavetes was one of the first actors (The Dirty Dozen, Rosemary’s Baby) to move away from the Hollywood mainstream and direct his own self-financed independent features. With his debut Shadows he helped to build the foundation of underground cinema, and in 1974 A Woman Under the Influence was nominated for two Oscars. But it was 1976’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie that brought his work to a larger audience. It involves a sleazy strip club owner (Ben Gazzara) who falls into debt with the mob and to pay for it he is asked to kill a Chinese bookie. But this isn’t a gangster flick; like all of Cassavetes’ work, it’s a meditative piece, concerned more with character interaction than on-screen action. Using static shots where people move in and out the frame and long scenes without a lot of dialogue will test the patience of most. But his films are rewarding slices of everyday life. Audiences who enjoy the work of Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark), Harmony Korine (Julian Donkey-Boy), Abel Ferrara (King of New York) and Larry Clark (Kids) will see the obvious influence of Cassavetes. Currently it is only available as a part of Criterion Collection’s John Cassavetes: Five Films. This set features the original 135-minute cut, long thought lost, and the 108 minute theatrical re-cut.
—Trevor MacLaren 

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