Movies, Uncategorized

POV in John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

I am currently making my way through the Criterion collection on Kanopy, and I came across an interesting film from 1978, called The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

On paper, it’s a pretty standard mob crime story: the owner of a strip club gets in too deep with gambling debts owed to the mob, and is tasked with killing a rival bookie to pay off some of what he owes.

What makes it notable is director Cassavetes and cinematographers Mitchell Briet and Al Ruban’s choices in how they shot the film. At first glance, it seems amateurish. It looked like the sort of movie that a film student who watched too much French New Wave would shoot. The picture is often out of focus, pointed at nothing in particular.

It wasn’t until I got to the end of the film, when the camera is rock solid and the picture is almost impossibly crisp did I realize what was going on.

The cinematography was being used as an extension of the main character’s state of mind. The camera wanders with his focus.

When Cosmo is distracted, the camera itself is distracted, focusing on seemingly random parts of the scene, out of focus, and wandering through the set. But when Cosmo is focused, the scenes are shot crisply and simply, focusing on what Cosmo is currently working on.

When the movie ended I immediately started it over, and this new insight really made me more invested in watching the film. It also reminded me that any time I watch a movie, I need to be more cognizant of these tools in the filmmaker’s toolbox, especially if I’m resisting the film for some reason.

If you can find this movie (I watched it on Kanopy) I cannot recommend it enough. And I hope my little observation helps you appreciate it a little more.

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Movies, Student Resources, Uncategorized, Writing Resources, YouTube Film School

Video: Lessons From the Screenplay Talks about Annihilation

I am always astounded by the insights that Michael Tucker has in his Lessons from the Screenplay videos. It constantly challenges me to engage with movies and scripts in deeper and deeper ways.

This is a particularly good one that came out recently. If you like it, I encourage you to go to YouTube and watch more of his videos.


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Movies, Shorts

Vimeo short: BUNDLE OF NERVES

I am in love with this short!

The visuals are really effective. The color palette is classic for the types of movies that are being referenced. I like the practical puppet for the monster and how it interacts with the actors. The sound track is really good.

I find the idea that these guys are more freaked out by the idea of having a kid than the rampaging tentacle monster fascinating. And this guys isn’t rejecting the idea of children, but he’s having an honest discussion about how good a father he would be. His buddy doesn’t tell him to man up or abandon his girlfriend. Instead, once he sees how much this bothers his friend, he acknowledges the guy’s feelings and comforts him. This could have gone full on frat boy, with a real toxic interaction between these two men, especially when you learn that one of them doesn’t want kids. That would have been the easy way out.