Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Greatest movie scenes ever # 39

Warning : contains spoilers, but you can watch the entire movie on Youtube.

If you're partial to Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant then, I dunno, maybe check out the 1978 directorial debut by James Toback, Fingers, a New York set neo-noir which features Harvey Keitel as a tortured aspiring concert pianist called Jimmy Angelleli who spends his days moonlighting as a debt-collector for his mob-affiliated loan shark father. Jimmy inherited his ivory-tinkering abilities from his otherwise neglectful professional pianist-turned-nutcase ma dukes, and if his mother-issues and disparate lifestyle hadn't rendered him quite conflicted enough, he's also a perfectionist who masters Bach sonatas in the privacy of his own apartment but turns all fingers & thumbs when he attempts to play for her former manager during an audition at Carnegie Hall, and who craves a meaningful relationship with the call girl he's fixated with called Carol (Tisa Farrow, resplendent in a fantastic sheepskin coat similar to the one Isabelle Adjani wears in The Tenant) despite the fact that she's in thrall to her hulking black pimp by the name of Dreems. All of which might explain why he suffers from erectile-dysfunction and why he exchanges longing glances with the resident homosexual at the restaurant where he eats with his father; presumably Jimmy's affinity for wearing ascots tipped ol' gay dude off that he might take it up the jacksie :

Reads like an utterly ridiculous clusterfuck of a story, right? Where Fingers succeeds is in Keitel's simmering performance as a guy crippled by his own emotions, masculinity, and delusions of grandeur, the strong supporting cast from Michael V. Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli from The Godfather Part 2) as Jimmy's wheezy wisecracking father down to appearances from Danny Aiello and Tom Signorelli as minor characters, the varying motifs of juxtaposition throughout, some really great tracking shots by Taxi Driver cinematographer Michael Chapman, the fairly restrained direction for a movie with such an array of complicated filaments, and the final scene of a broken man alone in his apartment that's perhaps even more haunting than the conclusion of The Conversation. Comparisons to both Mean Streets and Bad Lieutenant run slightly deeper than the "yo, it's Harvey Keitel as a sensitive two bit-thug in NYC who calls ppl cocksuckers" premise as the movie also sees Keitel's character attempting to reconcile his morality with the violent crimes he commits, and, as such, Jimmy is best viewed as a gangplank between Charlie in Scorsese's flick and the Lieutenant of the Ferrara picture. It's worth pointing out, though, that Keitel is on more friendly terms with radios than the Bad Lieutenant was as he carries a boombox around with him blaring out 60s R&B numbers, and I suppose the movie is also loosely comparable to Ferrara's The Funeral since it features turns by various mob movie goombahs-for-hire, and future Sopranos cast members in an unrecognisable Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico and Dominic "Uncle Junior" Chianese :

And it's precisely because of Keitel and the Paulie Walnuts > ppl from France nowadays tenet that the 2008 French remake of it called The Beat That Might Heart Skipped isn't a patch on the original, and why this is the only Toback picture worthy of being mentioned alongside his incredible Tyson documentary. Here's one of my favourite scenes from it, where one of Jimmy's father's more lax clients played by Lenny "Luca Brasi" Montana gets clocked in the face with a pistol in the kitchen of his own pizzeria as Jimmy's bumps "Angel Of The Morning" by Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts on his portable radio, before it cuts to Jimmy back at his apartment pulling vinegar-stroke faces as loses himself in a pitch-perfect rendition of some Bach :

"You don't like what happened to your father, huh? You don't like it? Well, I don't like what he did to my father!"

On a related note, did anyone else notice that one of the seven horrific blond white-trash sisters in The Fighter was Bianca Hunter AKA the teenage brunette Jersey rawk chick from Bad Lieutenant who mock-fellates Keitel out of the window of her car as he furiously pulls his pud to climax and insults her on the rain soaked highway?


done said...

Sound, I appreciate the spoiler alert. Gonna have to check this one out.

Kurt said...

No homo but Paulie was hot.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoy reading these film write-ups of yours. Did you mean Tisa Farrow though?

The Great Gats, B said...

Ack, yes!

Steady Bloggin' said...

No love for The Gambler (the Caan one, not the other one)

The Great Gats, B said...

I do, and it's probably the best of his other movies. Not quite in the same league as Fingers, though, imo.

Baby-Son said...

I havent seen the fighter, probably never will, but isnt that chic Tina (Elaine's irksome roommate who gets busy with Kramer) from Seinfeld?

The Great Gats, B said...

It does look a bit like her, but not according to IMDB, no.

The only thing I saw her in during the 90s is Trees Lounge. She has uncredited roles in Serpico (!) and Goodfellas, but I assume its as extras so lord only knows where.