Skip to main content
Saint Jack film image

In a performance that feels like an extension of his role in The Killing of a a Chinese Bookie, Ben Gazzara gave one of his most happy-go-lucky turns in Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack, the tale of an American hustler whose chaotic business it is to “satisfy the needs” of visiting businessmen in Vietnam War-era Singapore. (Among its other virtues, the film is an invaluable record of a city long since vanished under constant redevelopment, photographed by the great Robby Muller of Paris, Texas fame.)

“Saint Jack” Flowers’ philosophy: “People make love for so many crazy reasons, why shouldn’t money be one of them?” Gazzara plays Flowers as a breezy entrepreneur, a man preternaturally driven towards delivering the classiest brothel and the absolute best in carnal pleasures to GIs, ex-pats and other wayward souls lost amongst southeast Asia. The local mob demand their cut of course. And then there’s a shady CIA man who has his own agenda (played by the filmmaker).

Based upon the novel by Paul Theroux, Saint Jack marked the first of several critical comebacks for Bogdanovich after a couple of critical and commercial flops. He had obtained the rights initially at the behest of his friend Orson Welles, who admired the book. In a humanist return to form matching The Last Picture Show, the filmmaker gives Gazzara room to ride the line between savvy, charismatic huckster and moralistic citizen of the world.

Restoration courtesy of Shout! Factory and the American Genre Film Archive.

I discovered Peter Bogdanovich’s 1979 film Saint Jack several years ago when I picked it up on video. The cover had a fantastic painting of its star Ben Gazzara – it looked like artwork for a James Bond movie. So I watched the tape and realised it was a great film. From then on I’ve always wanted to sponsor a screening, to introduce it to as many people as possible.

Wes Anderson

The absolution that Saint Jack offers us today is not only a refuge in a long-lost smoky street culture, but importantly, a refutation of the dominant narrative that insists that enforced progress is not only inevitable, but the best form of freedom for all.

William Gibson, Pop Matters

Aug 25 Only: Introduction from novelist Erik d’Souza (Death in Halfmoon Bay)

Director

Peter Bogdanovich

Cast

Ben Gazzara, Denholm Elliott, George Lazenby, Joss Ackland, James Villiers

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1979

Language

English

Awards

Best Film Award, Venice 1979

19+
115 min

Book Tickets

Thursday August 25

8:30 pm
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now

Monday August 29

8:30 pm
VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre
Book Now

Credits

Executive Producer

Hugh M. Hefner, Edward L. Rissien

Producer

Roger Corman

Screenwriter

Peter Bogdanovich, Howard Sackler, Paul Theroux

Cinematography

Robby Müller

Editor

William Carruth

Art Director

David Ng

In the Spotlight: Crime Scenes

Mikey and Nicky

Marked for assassination, lowly gangster Mikey (John Cassavetes) calls his best friend, Nicky (Peter Falk), the only man he can trust, and they deviate around New York City all night, one step ahead of a professional hitman (Ned Beatty).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Taxi Driver

Scorsese's expressionist, hallucinatory rendition of an infernal New York puts us in the head of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro),"God's lonely man", an insomniac who crisscrosses the city at night and dreams of claiming something better for himself.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Late Show

Ira (Carney) comes out of retirement when his old partner Harry bleeds to death on his doorstep. What had he been working on? The case of a missing cat... Lily Tomlin, Harry's kooky client, joins forces to unearth the truth - and get her cat back.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ben Gazzara is Cosmo Vitelli, proud owner of the strip joint Crazy Horse West and in every sense a showman. His fondness for gambling lands him in trouble with the mob, but they offer him an out: all he has to do is murder the eponymous Chinaman...

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

More Films in This Series

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story of a New York bank robbery which turned into a hostage siege (and a media spectacle), Sidney Lumet's gripping movie showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the homosexual, married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Carrie

The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma's career, Carrie takes Stephen King's horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller".

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

All the President's Men

This gripping account of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation into the Watergate break-in is a masterclass of cinematic craft from director Alan J Pakula (Klute; The Parallax View) and DP Gordon Willis (The Godfather).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Phantom of the Paradise

De Palma’s delirious mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and 70s glam-rock is the musical/horror/comedy freak-out that Rocky Horror wanted to be.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Parallax View

The most lucid and ingenious, the most deeply, creepily satisfying of paranoia thrillers, Alan J. Pakula's film posits an assassination corporation. Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is on to Them, or so he believes…

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Shampoo

A passion project for producer-star Warren Beatty, this frothy boudoir comedy of Beverly Hills manners views its hairdresser hero's bed-hopping with a certain sadness. Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher come along for the ride.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre