Tag Archives: Ben Gazzara

Kinda Hot: the making of Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack

kindahotTowards the end of Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore, Peter Bogdanovich tells the book’s author Ben Slater: “Some of the best things are things that just happen once and then don’t happen again. They just don’t. Now mater how much you want them to.”

It’s a fitting observation for a film I have always regarded as a one of a kind, Bogdanovich’s 1979 adaption of the book by the same name by Paul Theroux, about a small time Italian American hustler (played by Ben Gazzara in the film) living in Singapore in the early seventies whose ambition is to open up his own high-class brothel.

As the film begins, Flowers is very much a bottom feeder, eking out a precarious existence on the fringes of Singaporean society. He’s so skint he has to haggle with his Chinese bosses for the taxi fare to pick up William Leigh (Denholm Elliott in the film), a mild mannered English accountant sent from head office in Hong Kong to audit the books. The one currency Flowers has no shortage of is contacts. Taking Leigh and a visiting American businessman on a tour of the island’s nightlife, Flowers is on first name terms with every hooker and tout he meets.

Flowers eventually establishes his brothel in a magnificent British colonial villa.… Read more

Asia hands

In the early-nineties, I lived for several years in Vientiane, the sun bleached, run down capital of one of the more remote countries in Asia, Laos. One of my acquaintances in the small expatriate community was a man who’d fled Australia after being accused of embezzling money from several companies.

He spent most nights drinking with a pack of other Australians and their mostly Lao girlfriends at a bar that circled a large fountain in the city’s centre. Drunk he exhibited an air of menace; otherwise he could be entertaining company. He knew a lot about Laos. Obviously, he also had contacts in government that enabled him to stay despite being wanted back in Australia.

He was the first, but by no means last, person I met in the six years I spent in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand who could be given the title ‘Asia hand’.

The Asia hand has usually been a minor character Western crime films set in Asia, the drunken Westerner propping up the bar in some seedy hotel or proffering false information or documents. Two films that explore in more detail the themes embodied in the persona of the Asia hand are Peter Bogdanovich’s 1979 Saint Jack, based on the Paul Theroux novel of the same name, and the little known 1982 Australian thriller, Far East.… Read more