Saint Jack Starring: Ben Gazzara, Denholm Elliot, Peter Bogdanovich Director: Peter Bogdanovich The film: Few Hollywood films made in this part of the world have captured the atmosphere and mood of their locations as well as Peter Bogdanovich's little-known Saint Jack. Filmed entirely on location in Singapore, it's a reworking of the Paul Theroux novel of the same name that was banned in Singapore mainly for its portrayal of the city as a sexual R&R centre for US troops during the Vietnam war. Knowing he had no chance of getting permission to shoot a film of the book, Bogdanovich presented government censors with a fake film outline, and shot Saint Jack largely on the sly. Perhaps it was this urgency that gave the film its natural feel, but credit must also go to Ben Gazzara (a John Cassavetes regular and one of America's most underrated actors), and Dutch cameraman Robby Muller (Buena Vista Social Club, Breaking the Waves). Gazzara's portrayal of an American pimp is extraordinary in that he makes his character so sympathetic and saintly (hence the title). The title suggests that this should be the case anyway, but Gazzara at times almost seems to be religiously benevolent, despite his unsavoury profession. Also notable is Denholm Elliot's performance as the bewildered British auditor (above left, with Gazzara) who visits Singapore once a year and whose annual appearances intercut the three acts of the story. Bogdanovich plays an American with government connections who sets Gazzara up as the manager of an R&R centre for the American military, and just about gets away with more or less playing himself. Almost all of the local performers were non-actors, and this also adds to the genuine feel of the film. (The lead actress, for example, was a Sri Lankan hotel receptionist who never appeared in another movie.) The British expats who provide comic relief were flown in from England, but Bogdanovich let them improvise for the most part, making their bar-room banter all the more realistic, if at times grating. Anyone who knows Singapore well will have fun with the locations, but more importantly, here for once is a film set in Asia that manages to find an almost cliche-free balance of well-crafted filmmaking and true-to-life local atmosphere. So true to life, in fact, that Bogdanovich has not been able to go back to Singapore since. The extras: Bogdanovich provides an informative commentary that covers everything from his problems with the Singapore authorities to background information on locations and shooting methods. In a 30-minute interview he also comes up with some interesting material not included in the commentary. Although the box says the film has been digitally re-mastered, it's neither widescreen-enhanced nor in particularly good shape. Periodically there is quite substantial damage to the print, but on the whole it's a passable transfer.