A View From the Director’s Sofa

3 Oct 2013: Gambler (DVD, 2005, Phie Ambo)

The rare DVD-extra documentary (and feature-length one at that) that actually seems to enrich the viewing experience of the movie it accompanies. Again, its material is at first sight tiresomely familiar – director in bourgeois comfort stresses about finding money for his productions, has ironic banter with family, friends and business partners, thinks there’s no hope but regains it, overcomes marital disputes – but in conjunction with the material of Pusher, and seen through Jonathan Rosenbaum’s comments on Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (a film I haven’t seen yet), Gambler demonstrates just how closely life imitates art, or can be made to appear that way. The central conflict of Pusher revolves around hustling to get money to save oneself from utter destruction at the hands of a disappointed financier, including relationship woes both domestically and in the public/business/friendship sphere, obviously the same conflict of Pusher, and seeing the two in quick succession feels a little like watching fellow Dane Lars von Trier’s Epidemic, a story that includes both aspects within the same film. There’s not really anything new to learn from Gambler on its own – nothing notable in its home-video technique (except perhaps a probably unintentional visual coup of grainily lowlit footage of a despondent Refn on his couch) or in its content for aspiring filmmakers (you have to sell yourself, you will worry about making money a lot, things will be uncertain, etc.) – but it functions oddly well as a companion feature to, rather than a documentary of, the more typically cinematic drug-deal tale one has arrived to watch.

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