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Shock Corridor Cinema: Two from the 70s. Drag Racing and Cassavetes

Tue. September 30th 2003 8:00 pm
Shock Corridor Cinema Presents

Two Indie Films from the illustrious 70s . . .
Two-Lane Blacktop & The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

@the fifty fifty arts collective
416 Craigflower Rd. $2
Two Films, one cheap price.

The 70s occupies a unique place in American film as both the rise of the independent film and its counterpart, the studio film, granted filmmakers freedom to produce films that challenged, rather than supported, the status quo. Funding for subversive films may have been in short supply for independent filmmakers, but given the somewhat radical output from the studios, indie filmmakers were able to obtain funding from unlikely sources. The counter culture of the 60s and the rise of a new kind of youth movement may have played a crucial role in seeing such films get to theatres. It should also be noted that independent theatres were in their prime (i.e. the birth of the midnite screening), providing outlets for marginal filmmakers and making distribution a whole lot easier. Guest curator, and newest member of the arts collective, Amy-Lynn Karchut has provided us with two stellar films from this era. Hope to see you out.

Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman; 1971; 103 min.)
Screening at 8:00 PM

Part drag race, part Road Film, part coming of age story, Two-Lane Blacktop is about a couple of young alienated males (pop stars, James Taylor and Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys); obsessed with their �wolf in sheep�s clothing� car, th boys speed across the American plains, stopping only for gas, a few drag-race challenges, burgers, and at one point, a lady (Laurie Bird). The plot thickens ever so slowly; this is the beauty of the film. Monte Hellman�s existentialist perspective on individuals who alienate themselves within such a vast territory is slow, honest and a brilliant example of ways in which to ruthlessly pare down a script; in order to allow every one of the characters and their relationships with each other to develop at their own, rather than the conventional, hour and a half, point A-B, fall in love and out again, pace.

Like the great early Leone Westerns (A Fistful of Dollars), the characters of Two-Lane Black Top film live outside the law, outside constraining responsibilities and without much a care about anything, which creates, for the viewer, a beautifully captured journey into a place not many of us would find ourselves. A Cult classic, recently revered by Will Oldham, Cat Power and Sonic Youth through their contributions on the compilation, �You Can Never Go Fast Enough,� an (imaginary) soundtrack using Two Lane Blacktop as its source material. Call it the soundtrack that was never issued for the film. This album will provide lovely lobby music between the films of this program.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes; 1976/1978, 109min)
Screening @ 10:00 PM

With the very odd pacing, lack of any music bed and shot in the handheld cinema v�rit�' style, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie takes a while to get in your blood. Virtually unreleased upon its completion, this one is an overlooked jewel. Setting up the plot really just scratches the surface when you consider this is the most "out-there" film that the "out-there" Cassavetes� ever made. He was nominated for Oscars, he financed his films with money he made acting in some stellar roles
(The Dirty Dozen and Rosemary�s Baby). Cassavetes� offbeat, semi-low budget fare such as Husbands, Faces, Minnie and Moskowitz earned him the reputation for delivering thought provoking, sensitive stories that were not the norm for typical "Hollywood" tripe. His v�rit� style, couched in his unique narrative style. pre-dates the mock-documentary (Spinal Tap, Bob Roberts) by about 20 years.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie�s depiction of strip clubs, gambling and organized crime are no where near conventional, and it all plays out more as a character study of Cosmo (Ben Gazzara), who alienates himself within his club to avoid contact with the outside world, which could ultimately expose him and his business as being, average. Cosmo bashes heads with Flo (Timothy Agoglia Carey) and company (namely, Seymour Cassel), legitimate bad guys who seem to actually like Cosmo; if for no other reason than to listen to Flo�s strange ramblings about Carl Marx, Mao and others. Flo drops one of my favorite lines of any film, ever..."Money, Money Is Jesus." There is a poetry to this film that is difficult to peg, but the dance all these men do leads you to sympathize to the point of pity with everyone's plight. Well, everyone but the Chinese bookie, who really doesn't do much but look pretty in his indoor pool.