A surprisingly sympathetic study of a morally abject character. Lingering close-ups and some brilliant acting on the part of Gazzara gradually draw you into the clubowner's world, and my chest tightened in response to his desperation. There's something really heartbreaking about people not being able to live up to their own self image, and despite its humour in parts the film left me feeling quite depressed.
Were it kept me at seat a lot longer than directors previous work was the fact none of the subjects exhibited throughout singles out as it's major thesis. Although as preachy as Cassavettes makes them, neither the setting, nor the characters or it's script offer but a a slice of some bizarre unearthly everyday life. Beta Lynch, in a good way.
Cassavetes tackles the gangster picture with a great command of laid back style and improvisational acting. Ben Gazarra as club owner Cosmo Vitelli is great; the use of long takes and slow burning scenes demonstrating every tick and mannersm of the character's thoughts and feelings, really making the audience understand him on more than a superficial level like typical movies would. The original cut's better, I think
What an impeccable neo noir film. The colors which so lavishly set the tone of the movie are among the best I've seen. What also struck me is the excellent use of longer lenses to create the shallow depth and blurred background. The often weird camera angles too helped shape the isolated and alienated environment Cosmo was trapped in. Excellent.
Cassavetes' mastery of the art of the quease found perhaps its oiliest, mealiest manifestation in Ben Gazzara's Cosmo Vitelli, a baffled but blustery small-time club-owner who manages a coterie of strippers and finds himself indentured to provide pounds of flesh (his own and others') on an ongoing basis in order to support the big dumb perpetual gamble of living. Aglow with grubby majesty, it bleeds real heart.