Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Mikey and Nicky

I've been trying to watch Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky for weeks now. "Trying?" you ask. Yes, trying. The VHS I've bought years ago from a thrift store is a mess and makes your eyes wet with tears: the picture is fuzzy and scratched to begin with, but the main thing is that the picture size is wrong. I can make it just about right by zooming the television screen, but then the captions disappear. And it's pretty important to understand what the guys in lead - Mikey and Nickey - say, because they talk all the time. Talk talk talk, that's what the film is about.

But there's also a plot. John Cassavetes plays Nicky, a small time crook, who's afraid a mobster is trying to kill him. Peter Falk is Mikey, Nicky's friend, whom Nicky calls for help. They wander around the city, hit some bars, visit some women, try to stay away from the mobsters. And talk all the time. Ned Beatty plays a hitman, who's really looking for Nicky.

It's no wonder John Cassavetes is in this, since the film looks a lot like one of his. The conversations between Mikey and Nicky seem improvised, and Elaine May shot the film with three cameras, sometimes letting the cameras roll for minutes after Cassavetes and Falk had disappeared from the focus. May crossed the budget with several million dollars (something she did later on with more disastrous results in Ishtar) and the film got only a limited release. I don't know if it's easily available on DVD.

If it is, I think I'm gonna drop this VHS into a river and get done with it. I can't bear to watch it. The film is a good experimental noir from the seventies, on par with Taxi Driver, Night Moves, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and others, so it's highly recommended if you can stand two hours of rambling conversations. And oh, I think this influenced Sopranos. The picture Elaine May gives about the mob and the small crooks affiliated with them is pretty similar to David Chase's masterpiece. (Same goes for James Toback's Fingers, a very good film I saw a couple years ago, but failed to write about here in Pulpetti.)

More Forgotten Films at Todd Mason's blog.


Todd Mason said...

You're in luck...there's at least a Region 1 DVD. I think this is one of the many films I've seen a piece of, with the desire to get back to it (or perhaps even saw a pared-down version of on the CBS LATE MOVIE in the 1970s)...David Chase wrote an episode of THE ROCKFORD FILES (involving two young, dumb, wanna-be Made Guys) that was almost identically remade as one of the episodes of THE SOPRANOS, so there was certainly something like that bubbling in his skull fifteen years earlier...

Harri said...

Region 2 DVD is available for £2.60 through Amazon UK.