Harvey Keitel the Art of Darkness

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9780002558082: Harvey Keitel the Art of Darkness

Harvey Keitel has made his menacing presence felt in some of the greatest cult movies ever, from Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" and "Mean Streets" to Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction". The godfather of independent film makers, Keitel has a record for supporting star directors of the future, from Scorsese (his first acting job was in Scorsese's film school thesis film), through Ridley Scott, Abel Ferrara, Jane Campion and Quentin Tarantino. Keitel's background prepared him for the tough and brooding roles he so often plays. Born in Brooklyn to poor Polish immigrants, he dropped out of school and joined the Marines at 17. Drawing on interviews with colleagues and friends, this biography tells the story of the rollercoaster career and turbulent personal life of this powerful performer.

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Review:

If you've seen Bad Lieutenant or The Piano, you've seen all there is to see of Harvey Keitel--but what do you really know about him? Although Marshall Fine's biography lacks the intimate insights that direct involvement with his subject would entail, he does an excellent job of collating what Keitel has said about his work--and what others have said about Keitel's performances--over the years, from his electrifying "debut" in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets through the fallow '80s to the gradual comeback that culminated with his performance as Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs.

Most significantly to Fine's credit, he takes seriously Keitel's desire to have his career viewed as a development of craft and a journey of self-discovery, and thus analyzes Keitel's performances (and the circumstances behind them) with sensitivity. Although this emphasis is based in part on editorial necessity--there's simply more documentation of Keitel's professional life than his personal one--Fine does rather well with the available resources. You won't necessarily know Keitel after reading The Art of Darkness, but you will perhaps come closer to understanding him. --Ron Hogan

About the Author:

Marshall Fine is the author of Bloody Sam: The Life and Films of Sam Peckinpah. He has written for Entertainment Today, USA Today, and Gannett Newspapers and has served as chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. He lives in New York.

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