399 House of Games

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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#76 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:14 pm

kaujot wrote:I have always found Roger Ebert's Great Movies to be a very good examination of the film. Certainly better than Kent Jones's essay.
The Kent Jones essay isn't very good at all.

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oldsheperd
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#77 Post by oldsheperd » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:39 pm

I haven't watched this yet but in response to the whole predictability of the movie, I think that's where viewers of Mamet's stuff miss the point. I value Mamet more for the dialogue he can punch out than anything else. The end of Glengarry was kind of anti-climactic, but as far as characters and dialogue go this is a film that requires repeat viewings just due to characterization and dialogue. The twist plot (the plot in some sense) is almost like a MacGuffin in Mamet's stuff because dialogue and characterization is so rich and enjoyable.

Spartan is another example.

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lord_clyde
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#78 Post by lord_clyde » Mon Aug 20, 2007 1:16 am

Definitely, the dialogue and everything going on underneath the surface are so rich that everything else (plot especially) is just the frosting on the cake. Like, thank you David Mamet for the narrative, I would have been happy just listening to Val Kilmer pretend to be a police officer; but a plot? Thank you, that's swell!

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kaujot
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#79 Post by kaujot » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:58 am

Fantastic commentary.

"Sergei Eisenstein, who you guys will remember from the Matrix movies [. . .]."

I about spit out my drink.

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LionelHutz
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#80 Post by LionelHutz » Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:14 am

kaujot wrote:I have always found Roger Ebert's Great Movies to be a very good examination of the film. Certainly better than Kent Jones's essay.
This is definetely one of the few films which Ebert actually made me appreciate more.
Probably now after twenty years of con movies it has become a bit predictable,but it's still such a classy film!

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oldsheperd
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#81 Post by oldsheperd » Mon Aug 27, 2007 2:43 pm

Watched this on Saturday. With regards to the predictability of the plot, you can see it coming a mile away. However, I found myself more intrigued by how Lindsay Crouse's character would respond than the con twist itself. Also, I think Mamet shows his hand (no pun intended) to perhaps play with the viewers' expectations. Maybe he tried to con us.

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zedz
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#82 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 27, 2007 5:08 pm

oldsheperd wrote:Also, I think Mamet shows his hand (no pun intended) to perhaps play with the viewers' expectations. Maybe he tried to con us.
A long time ago, I think it was in Film Quarterly, there was an article proposing something along these lines, but even more elaborate, with the audience being the ones conned by Crouse and Mamet. As I recall, the reading was that the climax of the film was imaginary, a visualisation of Dr. Ford's self-therapy. Various pieces of textual evidence were adduced, but I haven't seen the film since I read the analysis, so I have no idea how it stacks up (it does strike me as odd that Mamet would buy into a psychoanalytical framework to such an extent). I believe the interpretation was hotly contested in the letters columns of subsequent issues.

OK, I've found an online reference to the article, though not the article itself. It was in the Summer 1990 issue of FQ, 'Psychoanalysis and Con Games' by William van Wert. Make of it what you will.

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oldsheperd
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#83 Post by oldsheperd » Mon Aug 27, 2007 7:59 pm

Just to build on what I previously wrote, although the plot was fairly predictable I found the hole clinical versus streetwise psychology fascinating. Especially the idea of confidence. The scene with William H. Macy was especially a nice touch. I wonder if that would really work.

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LionelHutz
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#84 Post by LionelHutz » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:36 am

zedz wrote:A long time ago, I think it was in Film Quarterly, there was an article proposing something along these lines, but even more elaborate, with the audience being the ones conned by Crouse and Mamet. As I recall, the reading was that the climax of the film was imaginary, a visualisation of Dr. Ford's self-therapy. Various pieces of textual evidence were adduced, but I haven't seen the film since I read the analysis, so I have no idea how it stacks up (it does strike me as odd that Mamet would buy into a psychoanalytical framework to such an extent). I believe the interpretation was hotly contested in the letters columns of subsequent issues..
As much as I like the film I think it's much more straightforward than critics like to think.

I agree that probably everyone was expecting the film to end with another con..So in that sense Mamet really con the audience. I think the ending is realistic,she wasn't a con artist and you could see in th end she wasn't sure of what to do with him..so she killed him out of rage.

I don't really buy all those "it was all a dream" arguments.
oldsheperd wrote:The scene with William H. Macy was especially a nice touch. I wonder if that would really work.
I'm afraid most of the cons played in most of the films of this kind (brilliant as they are) wouldn't really work in real life.. Except maybe with very old people (not that I'm encouraging anyone to try 8-))

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Cronenfly
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#85 Post by Cronenfly » Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:43 pm

LionelHutz wrote:I'm afraid most of the cons played in most of the films of this kind (brilliant as they are) wouldn't really work in real life.. Except maybe with very old people
As a similar con in Nine Queens exemplifies.

I was blown away in watching this again by the pacing (I remembered it as being very slowly paced, but this time around I thought it anything but) and Mantegna's performance (although I remembered his delivery of his "Thank you sir, may I have another" line as being funnier than it actually is). Even Crouse was more effective than the last time I saw it. I think Ebert's Great Movies review made it out to be THE lost classic of the 1980s for me, which it certainly is not, but watching it again with (slightly) lowered expectations, it's a very effective little movie (although I also found Crouse's character's throwing of her book to break her certification's framing to be hilarious [as Glenn Erickson pointed out in his review]) Very tempted to pick this up, though the price tag and seemingly lacking special features (outside of the entertaining-sounding commentary) make me hesitant.

EDIT: Actually, in looking back, it was more Ebert's original review than his Great Movies one that got my hopes up, if not just his general attitude towards Mamet.

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#86 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sat Oct 13, 2007 3:50 pm

This summer I read The Big Con, David Maurer's 1940s expose of sorts on con artists and their trades. Watching House Of Games for the second time (first time with Criterion's excellent DVD), it was fascinating to see so much of that book in the film. Mamet does in fact use many real cons that yes, have been used to great success in different variations in the past. I think it's easy to get wrapped up in the machinations of the cons and tells (which are fantastic) in House Of Games and miss the other stuff that's going on.

For me, the characters of Margaret and "Mike" are fascinating because, despite Crouse's (and Mamet's?) assertion in her interview on the DVD, "Mike" for me is anti-hero of sorts in this film. If anything, he is far more honest throughout the picture than Margaret ever is. She doesn't even tell him her name - which he asks for twice - until near the end of the film. He makes it very clear to her who he is and what he's about, while Margaret is in constant denial of who she is. It's interesting that it took getting ripped off and insulted at Charlie's Tavern for her to finally get shaken up enough to do something about it. It's similarly fascinating that her assertion of character comes in the most violent way she knows how (with the most phallic symbol imaginable). If anyone is real con artist in this picture, it's Margaret both as doctor and friend.

I think it would've been nice to get a commentary or essay of thoughts from a psychologist on the film, because Mamet (and certainly Jonathan Katz) seem to have very little regard for the profession.

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Morbii
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#87 Post by Morbii » Mon Nov 19, 2007 11:05 pm

I just watched this last night for the first time and found it to be fantastic. You have some interesting insight into the characters, Antoine. I might contest, however, that a knife is bit more of a phallic symbol though. Sure, the gun has balls and can "cum", but the knife of a killer is generally hard and long and also penetrates! I suppose we could get into a discussion about premature ejaculation...

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domino harvey
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#88 Post by domino harvey » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:09 pm

Inspired by rewatching the Spanish Prisoner last night, I spent about an hour watching Ricky Jay videos on YouTube. This one in particular was really fun, because he drops the genial showman act and performs an actual grift using very angry mannerisms and attitude to disorient the mark. Quite interesting and shows just how much I wouldn't want to be on the other end of his cons-- the way he just manages to roll with every change his marks try to enact on the bit and still comes out on top is stunning.

As an aside here, the comments on this video are safe but I wouldn't read the comments for some of the other Ricky Jay videos, as some people delight in pointing out when certain moves in the tricks are done, which is no fun

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exte
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Re: 399 House of Games

#89 Post by exte » Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:20 pm

Saw this last night off the dvr, and while I did enjoy the film I found the first act to be truly stilted, as if watching a play. In fact, I thought maybe we were observing actors rehearsing a play first, and then they would come off stage and begin their own story, but.... Well, anyway, I did enjoy the twists this film had. Very interesting.

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Re: 399 House of Games

#90 Post by kaujot » Mon Mar 30, 2009 2:23 pm

Welcome to David Mamet!

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Mr Sausage
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House of Games (David Mamet, 1987)

#91 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:35 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, April 17th

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Re: House of Games (David Mamet, 1987)

#92 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:50 am

One of the things I always wonder about in this movie is how much we're meant to be watching Crouse, and how much we're meant to identify with her. In some ways, she fits the model of the classic Hitchcock blond- icy, professional, and morally questionable- and one of the assumptions built into that model is one of voyeurism, of watching someone who is very much not yourself, and I can see elements of that; she always remains someone distanced, and whenever her own sexuality enters into the movie, there's a distinct voyeur vibe to it. Yet, narratively, she's clearly the tour guide, the normal person being drawn into this world; I don't recall there ever being a con run on her where we, the audience, know the game beforehand, or if we do, it's based on the same information she has available.

If we're identifying with Crouse, the ending breaks that identification dramatically- now the person we've been following is the one not letting us in on the game, and it turns out we never really knew what she was thinking. But if you're not identifying with her in the first place, the whole narrative plays differently, and takes on an unpleasant vibe of people being put through the ringer just so we can enjoy it happening.

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Re: House of Games (David Mamet, 1987)

#93 Post by knives » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:20 pm

I think a good solution to that is treating the camera as its own character. Like Crouse it is part of the Woody Allen world, I don't think there is any Hitchcock going on, and it cannot yet enter into the Mamet world like she can. It's not till Homicide that the camera becomes fully Mamet. Though that winds up being Melville in a lot of ways.

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ando
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Re: House of Games (David Mamet, 1987)

#94 Post by ando » Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:42 am

matrixschmatrix wrote:But if you're not identifying with her in the first place, the whole narrative plays differently, and takes on an unpleasant vibe of people being put through the ringer just so we can enjoy it happening.
Absolutely. Part of the reason you may not identify with her is that she's not emotionally accessible, initially, and she obviously thinks she has the upper hand psychologically with everyone. This kind of insolence can put certain audience members (such as myself) off right away.

Secondly, going into the film you're aware that it's a David Mamet joint so every detail of its construction bears a scrutiny that films by writer/director's of lesser talent don't get. Perhaps it's unfair but I've seen enough of his stage work to expect a kind of visual and psychological challenge that will put me in the shoes of the main protagonist(s) and implicate me in some deeply human way. But if the characters don't seem to make the right moves, initially, I move from sympathetic to critical.

Crouse is obviously intelligent, a student of human behavior and gutsy but she zero street knowledge. With rather flimsy info she initiates the narrative (proper). Her ego (and this is my argument), not her so-called "desire to serve others" leads her into situations where her natural circumspection would normally refrain her from entering. First of all, how would some rather dopey kid dressed in sneakers and jeans come to owe anyone $25, 000? It's apparently enough to get Crouse involved in the rescue despite the implausibility of which she seems oblivious. After the kid claims that there's no way Crouse's privileged status would enable her to sympathize, much less help him, her response becomes more of a challenge from the him than a plea for help. So she takes his gun and his problem and becomes the new dope. I haven't finished watching the film but the projectory seems clear enough. I do wonder, though, that if Crouse had moved out of compassion instead of ego (Did she even know anything about Mike's relationship with the kid beforehand?) it would probably be a different film altogether and to what extent she's aware of her own self-delusions going forward.

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Re: 399 House of Games

#95 Post by swo17 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 5:34 pm


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Re: 399 House of Games

#96 Post by movielocke » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:16 pm

is this just a format upgrade or is it a second edition with new content? I think the cover is new, but I don't remember at all what the old one looked like.

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swo17
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Re: 399 House of Games

#97 Post by swo17 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:18 pm

It's the same cover and you can tell it's just an upgrade because if you select the DVD option, it no longer says "Coming soon, available May 14, 2019"

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Re: 399 House of Games

#98 Post by FrauBlucher » Fri Apr 26, 2019 3:50 pm


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Lost Highway
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Re: 399 House of Games

#99 Post by Lost Highway » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:39 am

Looks very soft, it’s taken from a dated master and it’s barely an upgrade from the DVD. It’s what I would expect from the catalogue releases they bring out here in Germany and nowhere else because they are based on dated masters and which sell for 13 Euros, not from a Criterion release which cost me nearly $30, not counting postage.

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andyli
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Re: 399 House of Games

#100 Post by andyli » Wed Jun 19, 2019 4:59 am

Using dated HD master is a practice still commonly seen these days, though less and less frequently. Criterion, MoC, BFI, Arrow, Indicator, etc., they all do it.

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