Film: Double Bill

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The Independent Culture
Jeremy Thomas, Director Of `All The Little Animals', Released tomorrow, On His Ideal Cinematic Pairing

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Dir John Cassavetes)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Dir Sam Peckinpah)

I AM keen on American independent films of the Seventies, because it was an especially good time for innovation. I chose these because their themes of revenge and high passion are often the subjects in films I have wanted to produce. The motif of Sam Pekinpah's film is poetic violence. Two characters are searching for a man who has made the daughter of a Mexican gangster pregnant. Unfortunately, Garcia is already dead. In one macabre scene, they desecrate his grave because they want to steal his head and claim the $10,000 reward money. Alfredo's head is carried around in a hessian sack during most of the film and he ends up causing more trouble dead than alive. Of course, the film is full of an ironical humour.

There is revenge and seediness in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. This is set in a bar along Sunset Strip. The owner is forced to kill a bookie to pay off a gambling debt.

The best scene shows the bar owner leaning on a microphone as he harangues the audience to speak out if they have any complaints about the bar or the show. If they do, he will put them out on their arses. Somehow he manages to inspire respect, as well as being a deeply unattractive, violent man.

You can tell a Cassavetes or Peckinpah film by the style and method with which it was made. They are strong signature directors. Strangely, critics are divided about their work. The films are cult cinema, but the directors are also mainstream names.

They'll often use the same actors and direct them in a similar way. And their films use the same themes.

From this style of working they get some of the best performances from the actors. Over the course of the films, you can see them develop.

Both of these films manage to take the audience to a place where other film-makers would be frightened to tread. Tellingly, neither of these films is likely to be shown on television because they are both too individualist.

When I began my career, these directors helped me to decide what I liked. They are both brilliant film-makers, if slightly hidden from current fashions.