Mar 5, 2017

The Gambler (1974)

If there is any single great example of an ‘auteur’ who is a much better screenwriter than he is an actual filmmaker with a talent for the strictly visual, it is indubitably rather loathsome and singularly sleazy Judaic degenerate James Toback (The Pick-up Artist, Harvard Man). Indeed, aside from his debut feature Fingers (1978), the greatest screenplays he ever wrote, The Gambler (1974) and Bugsy (1991), were directed by other filmmakers.  Notably, in his rather insightful essay Toward the Devaluation of Woody Allen originally featured in the May-June 1990 issue of the Jewish leftist rag Tikkun Magazine, Jonathan Rosenbaum, himself a Jew, more or less argued that Jewish filmmakers might have an innate handicap when it comes to the visual, noting, “[Woody] Allen is far from being the only comic director who thinks verbally more than visually; the same is true of Mel Brooks, and an overall orientation toward the word rather than the image may have something to do with the nature of Judaism as an oral culture.”  Not surprisingly, aside from Fingers, which derives the greatest part of its potency from lead Harvey Keitel's performance, virtually every single film that Toback has ever directed is either a celluloid abortion with interesting elements (Love and Money (1982)) or an awe-inspiringly atrocious joke (When Will I Be Loved (2004)), though—to the director’s credit—it is not hard to recognize a Toback flick, thus he must be recognized as an ‘auteur,’ even if he is not exactly a good one. After all, no many other filmmakers make cinematic works with such a shamelessly flagrant mix of pathetic pick-up artist posturing, racially schizophrenic eroticized negrophilia, proto-wigger fetishism, eccentric Jewish ethnocentricism, sexual neurosis, and cuck-ish Mike Tyson worship, among various other deplorable ingredients that put mainstream Hollywood to shame in terms of sheer Judaic degeneracy.

Somewhat ironically, Toback’s most overtly autobiographical film, The Gambler, was directed by someone else (who he apparently hated so much that he vowed to never work with him again), which was ultimately to the film’s great artistic benefit. Luckily for Toback, virtually everyone involved with the film was a fellow member of the Hebraic tribe, including Brit-Czech-Jew director Karel Reisz (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Isadora), stereotype-shattering Jewish tough guy star James Caan, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, degenerate jazz composer Jerry Fielding (notably, the film also features “Symphony No. 1 in D” by late-Romantic Ashkenazi composer Gustav Mahler), and even cinematographer Victor J. Kemper. Largely autobiographical but also loosely based off of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short existentialist novella The Gambler (1867), Toback’s film is, culturally/racially speaking, shamelessly Judaic to the core as a rare mainstream cinematic work where Jewish chutzpah, (sado)masochism, white collar criminality, blonde shiksa worship, and ethnocentrism are central themes. Indeed, no one cannot finish the film without coming to the obvious conclusion that Toback is an unsympathetic scumbag that fully deserves (and seemingly desires) the grand misfortunes that he masochistically sires via his own unhinged egomania. In many ways, Toback’s outstandingly assholish autobiographical antihero is an unintentional anti-Semitic racial caricature worthy of Julius Streicher’s National Socialist tabloid Der Stürmer and, were it not for lead Caan’s inordinate Hebraic handsomeness and stoicism, the film might be completely unbearable, even if Reisz is a very capable and even somewhat underrated filmmaker (indeed, for what it is, Reisz’s John Fowles adaptation The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) is nearly immaculate).  Although also a member of the tribe, it seems that Reisz highly benefited from coming from a European arthouse background (in fact, it is probably no coincidence that many of cinema history's greatest Jewish filmmakers, ranging from Erich von Stroheim to Josef von Sternberg to Stanley Kubrick, were either European-born and/or worked in Europe).

 Before she became a personal friend of Toback and made a disastrous failed attempt to begin a career in Hollywood by working on his all-too-ambitious cinematic abortion Love and Money (1982), Pauline Kael wrote a short yet fairly scathing review of The Gambler where she focused on the antihero's Hebraic pseudo-aristocratic airs, stating, “The gambler here is a brilliant young Jewish prince, professor of literature to ghetto blacks, and potential great novelist […] He's as flamboyantly superior as Norman Mailer's Rojack, and the prevailing tone of the film is Mailerian dread […] The script, by James Toback, is a grandiloquent, egocentric novel written as a film; it spells everything out, and the director Karel Reisz's literal-minded, proficient style calls attention to how airless and schematic it is.” Herself from a working-class community of Jewish farmers, Kael held a lifelong disgust for wealthy Hebrews and resented the pomposity of the rich liberal protagonist played by Caan, or as Brian Kellow explained in his book Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (2011): “Toback had in fact come from a well-to-do New York family, while Pauline had come from working-class stock. ‘She never liked to talk about being Jewish,’ Toback observed. ‘It was never anything she really identified with. At the same time, she had a real social and cultural antagonism for Jews she felt were sort of pretenders to society. She felt the character in THE GAMBLER was that, and therefore I must be.’ To Toback, Pauline's conflicts about being Jewish were securely rooted in her relationship with her father, a working-class man who was looked down on by certain strata of society—in particular, boy other, wealthier Jews.”

While I rarely agree with Kael’s opinions of films, she is right on the mark when she mocks Toback’s uniquely unlovable kosher prince, who absurdly plays the self-appointed patron saint of ghetto negroes and athletes while living a disgustingly decadent self-indulgent existence where he pisses away the wealth and opportunities that his rather privileged background afford him. Hardly motivated by empathy, the protagonist's shvartzer fetish seems to be mainly due to his misguided admiration for the stereotypical impulsive, intemperate, and irrational nature of negroes.  In short, the titular character is the sort of establishment leftist type that, influenced by the delusional pseudo-scientific Boasian view of race, would deny innate differences among the races, yet adores darkies largely due to exaggerated racial stereotypes that he, as a pampered white collar Israelite, totally lacks.  After all, the intriguingly incriminating film was penned by a man that is well known for bragging about engaging in orgies with black football players.  Far from a mindless moron that foolishly gambles money he does not have because he is desperate and/or simply does not know better, the antihero is a self-destructive addict and anxiety junky who is quite conscious of the true psychological nature of his vice and its deleteriousness, yet proudly partakes in it anyway while boasting about intentionally making risky gambles instead of safe ones.  Indeed, Paramount Pictures took a big risk when they opted to produce the film, as the protagonist is nothing if not a distinctly unlikable mensch-that-you love-to-hate.  Surely, one of the things that makes The Gambler so special is that it features an eponymous piece of human excrement that the viewer wants to strangle by the end of the film due to his brazen disregard for all good common sense and the effect that his pathologically criminal behavior has on his own loved ones.

 As a proud Jew from an affluent family with roots in some Eastern European ghetto who has a racially schizophrenic fetish for both blonde Aryan Shiksas and black athletes (notably, Toback has the same exact obsessions as clearly revealed in his quite literally titled pre-Hollywood book Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir of the Great Jim Brown (1971)), Axel Freed (played by James Caan, who was battling a bad cocaine addiction at the time) is in many ways a walking cliché. Axel owes his privileged life to the sweat, blood, and tears of his old school businessman grandfather A.R. Lowenthal (blacklisted Yiddish-speaking kosher commie Morris Carnovsky) who, on top of giving his grandson a good life, taught him to hate Slavs and only date nice Jewish girls.  Due to the fact that his father died when he was young, Axel 's grandfather also acted as his father figure.  Undoubtedly, it is hard to understand Axel and his mentality without knowing a little bit about his beloved grandfather. Indeed, Axel’s strong Eastern European Jewish background and anti-goyim sentiment is revealed in a long speech that he gives in tribute to his grandpa's eightieth birthday where he proudly states, “We are living in an age…that subverts the breeding of men like A.R. Lowenthal. In Lithuania, when he was 13…he stuck a knife in the back of a Cossack pig…who had knocked his mother to the ground. At 15, he prowled New York as a bandit…until he had the cash to feed a family of five. At 20, he opened a furniture store, which he built into two, then fifteen, then fifty, then a hundred. Until finally he had the largest chain America had ever seen. But not matter where he went…or what he did…he always found a place for every person bound to him by blood. Your families and your families’ families—to say nothing of his own children, my Uncle Hy here…my dear mother Naomi…whose rare intelligence he nurtured…and to whom he gave an extra measure of support…when she was widowed early by my father’s death. But I’m the one most deeply in his debt. Because every time I think my reach has stretched too far…I remember the moves that he has dared. So, I drink this toast on his 80th birthday. This man that seized what he wanted with nothing there to back him up…but wit and balls…and will. This killer, this king.”  Of course, as a man that was born with a kosher silver spoon in his mouth, Axel seems to be at least partly psychologically wounded by the fact that he will never be a truly great man like his completely self-made grandfather.  Indeed, while Grandpa Lowenthal might have been born in an Eastern European ghetto, he now lives a life of great luxury in a large mansion where he spends much of his time in his study reading the works of degenerate British philosopher Bertrand Russell while being constantly waited on by a high yellow negro butler.

 Undoubtedly, Axel inherited his chutzpah from Lowenthal, but unlike his grandfather, he has never really had to struggle and take risks, so his completely contrived gambles in life have only had mostly had negative consequences. Had Axel been born in a Polish shtetl a couple generations before, he might have grown up to become a NKVD Commissar or a bigwig in Murder Incorporated due to his particular yichus of ancient deep-seated hatred and resentment against the perennial goy enemy, but since he is from a posh yid family he naturally became a negrophiliac quasi-intellectual professor that does ridiculous lectures about how Dostoevsky was cool because he argued against the limits of rationalism and how trying to argue with people that 2 plus 2 equals 5 is a bold demonstration of pure will. Of course, with his risky gambling bets, Axel also feels he is expressing his will in a rather visceral fashion, which is extremely important to him because, as he passionately argues to his class during a lecture, “Reason only satisfies man’s rational requirements. Desire, on the other hand, encompasses everything. Desire is life.” Indeed, unlike the stereotypical Jewish intellectual, Axel absolutely loathes cold and calculated rationalism and rather literally risk his life than drown in a placid sea of bromide bourgeois banality.  Axel also seems to (arguably subconsciously) suffer the absurd delusion that by taking insanely irrational risks that he will somehow approach the greatness of his grand-pappy.  Naturally, Axel’s obsession with irrationalism, desire, and fanaticism also explain his rather ridiculous negrophilia, as he seems to long to be as deleteriously shortsighted as the average dope-peddling ghetto jigaboo. Of course, as all negroes know, you can’t fake the funk and Axel will always be a spoiled self-loathing Jew-boy who cannot bear to confront the fact that he is a failed intellectual with an easy ivy league junior professor job who, quite unlike his grandfather, has never had to face real hardship, thus he simply invents said hardship to test the bounds of his own largely empty existence.  Naturally, instead of impressing his family with his dangerous risks, he only brings them shame and disgust.

 Despite being a self-destructive Jewish junior professor of literature with not much to offer a woman aside from cold charm and superficial good-looks, Axel has managed to nab a relatively beauteous blonde shiksa named Billie (Lauren Hutton), though he treats her somewhat resentfully, which is probably due to the fact that she is not a bright Jewish physician like his beloved mama. Indeed, Axel truly cares about what others thinks about his girlfriend and even takes her by his grandfather’s house so that the sagely old Semite can judge her. While grandpa Lowenthal is nice to Billie’s face and compliments her on her fine Nordic physique and golden hair, he considers her to be completely unworthy of being his grandson’s fuck-toy because she lacks Ashkenazi genes and he even goes so far as to tell Axel to immediately break up with her. In fact, grandpa demonstrates his strong racial chauvinism by stating to Axel in regard to Billie after she fails to recognize Walt Whitman's 1855 poem “I Sing the Body Electric” (1855), “She’s is not for you. Avoid her. Break it off today. She’s not for you […] She was not meant for a scholar. That girl was meant for a club man, a playboy. Not for a man of character and virtue. Not for a Jew.”  Naturally, as a relative failure in comparison to his grandpa and mother, Axel's relationship with Billie seems to be largely based on a sense of inferiority.  After all, no nice Jewish girl would dare to marry a failed intellectual that regularly gambles away his meager junior professor pay.

 Of course, Axel does not just treat his girlfriend like shit, as he has also brought great sorrow, worry, and pain to his widowed mother Naomi (Jacqueline Brookes).  A practicing physician that seems to have effortlessly assimilated into WASP society, Naomi seems to not suffer from any of the mental problems and vices that plague her prodigal son. When Axel goes into serious debt and ends up owing $44,000 to some gangster after not following the advice of his guido bookie-cum-comrade ‘Hips’ (Paul Sorvino), he is ultimately forced to beg his mother to borrow the money. When Axel tells his mother how much he owes by writing the large figure in sand during an initially happy day at the beach, she completely breaks down and hysterically cries, “$44,000? Are you so naïve, you don’t know…what those monsters do with the money you give them? They shoot it right in the arms of ten-year-old schoolchildren. I see them every day at the clinic. My god, Axel. Have I been such a failure…that I’ve raised a son to have the morals of a snail?” Needless to say, Axel’s mother provides him with the money by emptying out a couple of her bank accounts because she realizes that there is a good chance that her sole son will be murdered under brutal circumstances if he does not pay up, but the antihero is such a piece of shit that he almost immediately opts to gamble the money instead of paying his debt. Indeed, aside from gambling on three basketball games for $15,000 a piece, Axel takes Billie to Las Vegas to flaunt his addiction at some sleazy casinos. While Axel wins a little bit of money at the casinos, he loses all of the money in the basketball bets.  Of course, Billie is not too happy when slimy loan sharks break into his apartment in the middle of the night and Axel gets somewhat agitated when she dares to complain.  After all, a bestial piece of shiksa trash has no right to complain to a wise Jewish prince.

 As revealed by his blunt remarks like, “You know what’s standing between your skull and a baseball bat? My word,” gregarious guido bookie Hips really attempts to convince Axel to immediately pay off his debt lest his brains be bashed out by sadistic Sicilian mafioso goons. In fact, Hips even risks losing his best customer by opening up to Axel and candidly confessing in regard to the stupidity of gambling, “Listen. I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told a customer before. Personally, I never made a bet in my life. You know why? Because I’ve observed firsthand the different types of people that are addicted to gambling. What we would call degenerates. I’ve noticed that there’s one thing that makes all of them the same. You know what that is?” Needless to say, Hips is absolutely flabbergasted when Axel correctly answers his question by retorting, “Yes, they’re all looking to lose […] I could have wiped the floor with your ass. By playing just the games I knew I’d win. Listen, if all my bets were safe, there just wouldn’t be any juice.” More than winning or losing, Axel gets a major high during the intermediate waiting time before he actually discovers whether he is a winner or loser, hence the seeming incurability of his vice. Somewhat similarly, Axel only seems interested in fucking Billie during the moment before he discovers whether she actually wants it or not. When a sleazy pimp friend offers Axel the opportunity to fuck his attractive girlfriend for free, the protagonist is totally disinterested, as he is not enticed by the prospect of a sure thing.  Naturally, Axel seems most aroused during the final thirty minutes or so of the film when his life is in jeopardy and he must find a way to pay his debt or be forced to sleep with the fishes courtesy of local wop mob goons. 

 After being beaten and kidnapped by the greasy haired soldiers of a mafia boss that he owes money to, Axel is coerced into getting a negro student of his named Spencer (Carl W. Crudup) to rig a basketball game at his university where the spade b-ball star must not win by any more than seven points. Indeed, Jewish liberal hero Axel ultimately exploits Spencer’s Afro-African roundball talents for his own benefit just like the Jewish moguls in the NBA like Donald Sterling.  While Axel only offers Spencer $5,000 for his criminal efforts, the protagonist stands to benefit the most monetarily as he will have his entire $44,000 debt paid off if his student is successful in rigging the game.  Before the big game, Axel confronts his grandfather about the fact that he refused to help him with his debts and then brags that he managed to “fix it” himself. When Axel insinuates that he also used similar unsavory businessman tactics to get rich, his grandfather gets angry and proudly declares, “My way? How would you know how I did things? I was as honest as any man with great responsibility ever could be. I dealt with those vipers because I had to…not because I wanted to.”  Of course, Axel fails to realize that he, quite unlike his grandfather, lacks the intrinsic understanding of the great pride that comes with being a successful self-made businessman of the rags-to-riches oriented sort.  Additionally, Axel's grandfather has no respect for the senseless behavior that led to his spoiled grandson acquiring such a quite literally deadly debt.

 Although Axel manages to get out of trouble and get rid of his debt when his student Spencer makes good on his deal by rigging the game and winning by less than seven points, the masochistic antihero does not seem all too happy when fate acts in his favor and instead he stares into space with an intense and seemingly insane look on his face.  While the protagonist almost seems disappointed that he has absconded a very potentially fatal fate, Hips is so happy that Axel manages to get out of trouble that he wants to celebrate and even offers to pay for a night a celebratory carnality, stating, “Let’s get outta here. We’ll eat some lasagna, grab some pussy, drink some wine. I’m supplyin’. Come on,” but the professor seems possessed by a delusional sense of invincibility due to his good fortunes and decides to celebrate in his own perversely precarious fashion by risking his own life and heading to a whorehouse in a dangerous black ghetto where white people are regularly verbally assaulted just for walking down the street. Although Hips attempts to stop him from entering the both literally and figuratively dark depths of the trash-covered negro neighborhood and yells, “I don’t want to lose my best customer. Hey, there’s nothin’ but cannibals down there. Hey, you can’t go down there. You’ll get killed!,” Axel decides he wants to sample some STD-ridden negress streetwalker pussy.

While Axel manages to easily procure said negro pussy, he gets in a fight with the prostitute and steals his money back when she refuses to take all of her clothes off (to the pussy-peddler's credit, she does not want to risk messing up her hair by taking her weave off). When the prostitute’s pimp pulls out a knife and puts it up to his throat in an attempt to get the money back, Axel horrifies the negro by daring him to try to kill him by stating, “Why don’t you kill me, then you can have the money!,” while looking intensely into his eyes. When the pimp demonstrates that he is not the hardcore brotha' he pretends to be and fails to make good on his initial threat, Axel becomes enraged and decides to nearly beat him to death during a somewhat morbid moment where the protagonist reveals that he is not the great champion of ghetto negroes that he pretends to be. Rather revealingly, it is only when the prostitute slashes Axel’s face with a knife that the antihero stops brutalizing the pimp. In the end, Axel stumbles out of the hotel room, walks down a staircase while frightened negroes look on, and then reveals a sadistic smile upon admiring the large flesh wound on his cheek after seeing his reflection in a symbolically dirty mirror. Of course, Axel is happy that he has finally acquired the curse of Cain, though the viewer suspects that he will not be truly happy until he is actually killed.  In that sense, one could argue that the only true cure for addiction is death.

 Notably, in a 2008 interview with Tony Macklin, The Gambler star James Caan would reveal in regard to his own artistic contribution to the ending of the film and his less than flattering feelings regarding screenwriter Toback, “I put this odd smile at the end, because I knew the real guy James Toback – this real person, who came from a very wealthy Jewish family, and he was a teacher. He was full of crap; he was so crazy. You know how the character conned his way through. The ultimate gamble – fighting with that pimp, walking out in Harlem. When he got his face cut, to me, what that meant, and what that little smile was – he didn’t have to hide anymore. His ugliness was now apparent.” Undoubtedly, it says a lot about a man when the actor portraying him in an autobiographical film describes him as “full of crap” and “so crazy.”  As the son of a German-Jewish butcher that grew up in a tough working-class neighborhood in Sunnyside, Queens, NYC that was comprised of wop, mick, and yid families, it is easy to see why Caan could not empathize with the self-destructive hedonism of an upper-class Hebrew like Toback.  Of course, considering that Toback is an obnoxious slob of the hardly handsome sort, he owes a great deal to Caan for his contribution to the film.  Certainly, the film would not be half as engrossing if a pretentious tub of kosher lard like Toback played himself as the filmmaker's unintentionally humorous quasi-autobiographical cameos in his films Exposed (1983) and When Will I Be Loved (2004) reveal in a rather glaring manner.

Needless to say, it was only natural that a megalomaniac like Toback was far from happy when he discovered that his film was being remade by the same producers as the original film.  In fact, Toback was very vocal with the press about his disgust for the film before it ever even began filming (notably, during the pre-production stage, Martin Scorsese was actually set to direct the film). To Toback’s minor credit, The Gambler (2014) directed by for-hire hack Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and starring lapsed wigger Mark Wahlberg as the eponymous lead is a hopelessly goyish affair that seems to have been made to appeal to sexually confused fratboys and philistine fans of soulless trash like HBO’s Entourage. Rather bizarrely, despite Jewish characters and themes being more prominent in Hollywood now than any other time in cinema history, the remake is almost totally de-judaized aside from John Goodman portraying a truly grotesque baldheaded Jewish loan shark. Indeed, Wahlberg’s pretty boy antihero is hardly the mean Mailerian metaphysical gambler as portrayed by the great kosher screen king Caan in the original film.  Not surprisingly considering contemporary Hollywood's compulsion towards rather repulsive cinematic cuckoldry, the remake basks in an almost supernatural level of negrophilia to the point where it features an ostensibly genius gangster-philosopher portrayed by Michael K. Williams that makes the titular protagonist seem like a pathetically stupid white boy with his elegantly expressed words of ghetto wisdom.  Undoubtedly, to compare Karel Reisz's The Gambler with Wyatt's remake is like comparing Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) to Marcus Nispel's 2003 trying abortion or George Sluizer's Spoorloos (1988) aka The Vanishing to his own retarded American-audience-friendly 1993 Hollywood remake.

 Considering that it features a less than flattering portrayal of a Hebraic quasi-intellectual and even the New York City Jewish community in general, it is actually really not all that surprising that the remake has more to do with so-called ‘goyisher mazel’ than the insatiable chutzpah of a Hebraic megalomaniac with an unhealthy fetish for shiksa sluts and shtarker thugs. In fact, I would argue that The Gambler is only slightly less subversive than Veit Harlan’s Jud Süß (1940) in terms of its portrayal of greedy shiksa-defiling Israelite with self-destructive compulsions and vices. In terms of his nihilistic desire to gamble his entire life away despite being extremely privileged and suffering from an acute case of chutzpah that will inevitably lead to his grisly demise, Axel Freed is unquestionably a grotesque Judaic caricature of sorts, thus making it seem all the more perversely poignant that said caricature is autobiographical.  In fact, one could argue that Axel Freed is a symbolic of Judea as a whole and the fact that Jews have been collectively expelled from 109 locations since AD250.  Of course, like Axel Freed, the Jewish community seems to the lack the capacity for self-reflection and suffers from the eternal delusional notion of Judaic blamelessness, as if they believe that they can do no wrong and that every single goy suffers from an inborn form of irrational antisemitism. 

Indeed, after recently re-watching The Gambler, I could not help but be reminded of the conclusion of the text Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin: A Dialogue Between Adolf Hitler and Me by Uncle Adolf’s junky poet mentor Dietrich Eckart, which reads: “The truth," he said, "is, indeed, as you once wrote: one can only understand the Jew when one knows what his ultimate goal is. And that goal is, beyond world domination, the annihilation of the world. He must wear down all the rest of mankind, he persuades himself, in order to prepare a paradise on earth. He has made himself believe that only he is capable of this great task, and, considering his ideas of paradise, that is certainly so. But one sees, if only in the means which he employs, that he is secretly driven to something else. While he pretends to himself to be elevating mankind, he torments men to despair, to madness, to ruin. If a halt is not ordered, he will destroy all men. His nature compels him to that goal, even though he dimly realizes that he must thereby destroy himself. There is no other way for him; he must act thus. This realization of the unconditional dependence of his own existence upon that of his victims appears to me to be the main cause for his hatred. To be obliged to try and annihilate us with all his might, but at the same time to suspect that that must lead inevitably to his own ruin -- therein lies, if you will, the tragedy of Lucifer.”  While many film reviewers, including Patricia Erens of The Jew In American Cinema (1984), might be tempted to describe the eponymous antihero of The Gambler as a sort of ‘Christ figure,’ I think it would be more accurate to describe him as a modern-day Lucifer who is just too much of a fuck-up to be considered a respectable member of the Synagogue of Satan.

-Ty E

No comments: