Fingers (James Toback, 1978)

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King Prendergast
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Fingers (James Toback, 1978)

#1 Post by King Prendergast » Mon Jun 16, 2008 10:01 am

Anyone here familiar with this, Toback's debut? Any thoughts on it?

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Person
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 3:00 pm

#2 Post by Person » Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:14 pm

I feel that it is a fine film with a great central performance by Keitel. It deserves to well known, but is seems to get overlooked, but for fans of New York Cinema, Scorsese-esque dramas and the work of Keitel, it's a must-see, I feel.

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david hare
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#3 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:20 pm

Wildly entertaining - a huge messy mixture of guignol and refined taste. Worth buying for the fabulous 70s rock soundtrack alone, and even if you dont like Harvey Keitel (who does?) who can resist him here - in the opening scene - playing the last movement of Bach's Partita No. 4 to achieve ecstasy, or being anally probed by the physician for a "spastic colon" and not achieve ecstasy, and go into coke twitch overdrive when he realizes he's being cruised by a gay waiter at a restaurant.

Compulsive viewing, and totally superior to the tragic French remake which totally misses the tone and the whole purpose and zeitgeist of the original.

And where is Exposed from 1983 - Toback's very imaginative pairing of Rudy Nureyev and Nastassia Kinski?

stroszeck
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 10:42 pm

#4 Post by stroszeck » Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:29 pm

Uh, i LOVE HARVEY KEITEL! One of the few brilliant actors of his generation who, in spite of the possibility of huge commercial success a la Pacino and De Niro, has stayed grounded and maintained close relationships with both brilliant debut filmmakers (anyone ever heard of Tarantino??) as well as contemporary auteurs, including Theo Angelopolous' latest picture....
And for the record, he's brilliant in FINGERS. The way he plays the piano with such sheer emotion is initially offputting and rather comical, but as the story progresses it really expresses the orgasmic experience that playing has for his character - who is stuck in more or less a shitty life in a bleak family "business"....

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Cold Bishop
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#5 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:43 pm

stroszeck wrote:(anyone ever heard of Tarantino??)
What's with the recent surge of Tarantino fans?

And Keitel is great... Did I read that wrong or are you really trying to say he's unlikeable, David?

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david hare
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#6 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:45 pm

How much, or whether you like Keitel at all certainly depends on both your tolerance for his "methodology" and what his directors can get from him, if they're strong enough. He would have overwhelmed the Pollak character in EWS (totally wrong) and - happily to me - he is the only thing to come alive in Jane Campion's HIDEOUS "art" film extraordinaire (pas) The Fucking PiAHHHno. He's is also extremely effective as a different type from DeNiro and the others in mean Streets, but that's about as far as I for one can go with him.

But he is absolutely right for the Toback. The conceits of the screenplay are so outrageous (and I really like the movie for this) with Toback's Yin Yang of extreme vioence plus sensitivity and they could probably only have been carried singelhandedly by Keitel. My one problem with his performance in this is that most (if not all) of it seems to be done under the influence of marching powder, and the physical aspect of the perf doesn't stray very far from sheeer wiredness. But that in itself is part of the zeitgeist, and it's part of Toback's sensibility, so hey!

Jonathan S
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#7 Post by Jonathan S » Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:28 am

I've never seen Fingers but I remember my film tutor saying (in the late 1970s) that it was the kind of film Sam Fuller would make about Nick Ray! I think it was meant more or less as a recommendation...

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Cold Bishop
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#8 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:40 am

Jonathan S wrote:that it was the kind of film Sam Fuller would make about Nick Ray!
I have no idea what that means but I like it.

And Keitel gave one of the great film performances in Bad Lieutenant. I wonder how you film about his performance in there, David.

And what is the word on Toback's other films. I have a recommendation for Exposed, but I've avoided everything else he's made, despite how much I like this film.

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david hare
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#9 Post by david hare » Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:15 am

CB even Exposed goes to pieces somewhat, but I do like the casting. And I remember wishing Rudy had done more than this and the Ken Russell.

As for Harvey, I have never been a fan of big demonstrative physical and vocal method acting. I don't even like Brando all that much unless he's tamed by a director of higher intelligence. Keitel benfits from this just as he does from the roles and the other performers. I have never seen Bad Lieutenant, but I think Fingers - in particular- is a role that must have been written with him in mind. It's all explosion, surfaces, displays, mania. Pretentious and engaging at the same time. And it's entirely exhilarating.

EDIT: There is now a definitional example of a Ray/Fuller - given Cyd Charisse's recent death - and it is of course Party Girl in which Nick Ray strategizes moments of pure rhythm and cross pointed horizonatl/diagonal and direct tracks, lingering camera moves, to long takes and decoupage - of course - Vale! Cyd Charissse! Then he plants his pre-Melvillian "musical inserts" into Party Girl to intensify the narrative. And expand Robert Taylor's character. A total masterpiece. And a movie at the climax of one decade or the beginning of another (1958) which manages to constantly break every rule, and undermine every expectation. And look totally post modern, and wonderful.

Ahhh RATS!!!

Perkins Cobb
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:49 pm

#10 Post by Perkins Cobb » Wed Jun 18, 2008 1:34 pm

Fingers is simply one of the great, gonzo, personal auteur movies of the American '70s New Wave - as I mentioned in that thread, I couldn't believe it didn't make the 70s list. It has a feverish intensity
It's one of the best New York movies, in terms of the use of locations, and Toback's contrapuntal use of music is unique; Davidhare mentioned the Bach, but Keitel's other "theme" in the movie is the Jamies' "Summertime, Summertime," and you'll never think of that song in the same way after you've seen Keitel wandering the streets of Manhattan blaring that tune out of his boombox. George Lucas & Hal Ashby had pioneered the crafting of soundtracks out of recycled rock songs, but here Toback fetishizes this one song in a way that gets all kinds of unexpected meaning out of it.

I also think Toback's deglamorized, semi-humorous take on the mafia and the people with whom they interact ("a double-suck!") is a major influence on The Sopranos - the tip-off is the presence of Dominic Chianese and Tony Sirico in both.

And if one is impressed by Fingers, it's essential to go back and see Karel Reisz's terrific, Toback-scripted The Gambler, which has a lot of the same concerns - primarily the Dostoyevskian interest in compulsive self-destruction, but also the contrast between different classes, and the interaction between the mafia and "civilians" as they share the space of New York City.

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