Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saint Jack (1979)

by Alex Stroup
Maybe this is a well known film that I've completely missed but I received this in the mail from Netflix the other day with no recollection of when or why I had put it on my queue. Looking at the IMDb page it looks like the rest of the world has mostly passed it by (no message board posts, only a few comments and only 300 ratings).

There isn't a lot of story in this thing but as a character study I was mesmerized. The Jack of the movies title is Ben Gazzara as an American pimp in Singapore during the last years of the Vietnam War. Apparently Peter Bogdanovich made this one in an attempt to return to basics following a few flops.

It may be the best I've ever seen from Gazzara and has a realism that is potent. Also the most unexpected, and effective, use of a dwarf (as a Triad kneecapper).

As for the DVD, I generally find Bogdanovich interesting but this time around he is too caught up in saying "this person wasn't an actor and did a wonderful job" and "this was a real location, but it's been torn down now" to be really interesting. In a separate interview on the DVD he says that his six months in Singapore making this were life-changing and I'd have loved to hear more about why in the commentary.

Anyway, it reminded how wonderful it is to occasionally go into a movie knowing absolutely nothing about it and finding something remarkable.


In a side note, thanks for having me along in the move over form Wells' place. I'm leaving for Japan tomorrow so I won't be active immediately but I'll do my best when I get back. (In a positive side effect of this vacation I will be missing all of the press screenings for The Shaggy Dog so I may get lucky and never have to watch that one.)


Blogger Chris said...

Ugh, The Shaggy Dog kills me a little inside.

Saint Jack sounds good, I'll have to check it out.

3/04/2006 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Wow, I think I'd almost completely forgotten about Saint Jack, but now that you mention it I actually recall Roger Ebert enthusing over Ben Gazzara's performance back on his old "Sneak Previews" show with Gene Siskel. Somehow that stuck with me, even though I've never seen the film, because I had always thought of Gazzara as a B-movie actor and TV show guest star, not knowing until later that he was a frequent collaborator with John Cassavetes.

3/05/2006 12:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Hmm...I see that it was cp-written by Paul Theroux, the author of "The Mosquito Coast," which I feel is one of the more underrated movies of the '80s.

I feel like Bogdanovich is probably the most acclaimed director I've ignored too much. I think I'll have to check out more of his work soon.

3/05/2006 08:03:00 AM  

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