I Saw A Film!
In our varied entertainment travels, bouncing from one random story to another, like a hoverfly buzzing flowers for the sweet nectar, being often underwelmed by the results, and ever hopeful of seeing the next thing that you can’t believe you’ve lived this long without seeing, we occasionally do run into that jackpot. I read somewhere that Hollywood alone produces about 500 films a year and that worldwide the average is around 2500 films. Imagine how much time it would take to keep up! There was a time in America (very early on) in which the per capita literacy rate was quite high, and people read “everything they could get their hands on”. This is obviously not possible any longer. Even just sitting down to watch everything on youtube would take several lifetimes and a very strong love of cat videos. And so we bounce from directors to reviewers to poster art to novel adaptations to whatever crumbs we can assemble to figure out what we want next. Most often I’m grabbing things Prime is suggesting.
This morning Saint Jack popped up. It is a seventies film, it’s about a prostitutes and their pimp in Singapore. It sounded like perfect fakakta for a Sunday morning loafing with my tea. What I didn’t notice right off was that it’s directed by Peter Bogdanovich (and also starring him) and starring Ben Gazzara. I choked back a bit of disappointment as I realized quickly this was a “real” film. Real, story, based on a Paul Theroux novel, and real actors and really well made. Forget about all that, this is a charming, challenging and captivating movie about an ex-pat in Singapore who arranges his bordello (trying to aid his favorite hookers and their staff) with love and care, treating all with respect and decency. It’s a guy fantasy for sure, but at least it’s not the typical macho-bullshit about wickedness, war, drugs or chasing power. Sure enough the criminal agencies in Singapore are causing our protagonist Jack Flowers (Gazzara), all sorts of grief.
At some point Bogdanovich’s character (another kind of criminal, and constantly supplying good cigars) gets him a more protected job working for the stationed military during Vietnam, now the Singaporian cartels can’t mess with him any more, but other responsibilities start to erupt. Eventually Jack is offered a wad of cash if he’ll blackmail a gay politician for them. The idea is to photograph him with the boys. Jack takes the photos but has ethical dilemmas about satisfying the mob and collecting the rewards.
The film is shot on location and includes some unique sequences I’ve not seen elsewhere. It’s almost darling the way the girls cue up a record and dance for the clients to “Goldfinger” from the old Bond film. Gazzara handles the duties very well, and is inspiring in his even-handedness. Denholm Elliot is an accountant buddy, who keeps trying to leave, but ends up back, and is probably a junkie. George Lazenby (who once played Bond!) plays the homosexual senator with an amazing mustache.
There’s an element of this story that feels much like The Quiet American.
This is running Free On Prime.