Fingers


1h 30m 1978
Fingers

Brief Synopsis

A wanna-be concert pianist spends his days making a living by collecting debts for his Mafioso father, a lifestyle that could eventually ruin his dreams of a musical career.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Drama
Release Date
1978
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

A wanna-be concert pianist spends his days making a living by collecting debts for his Mafioso father, a lifestyle that could eventually ruin his dreams of a musical career.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Drama
Release Date
1978
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

Fingers



"What if I want a slice of pizza?" It's the way the kid puts the emphasis on the last word. The restrained laughter behind the syllables sets you on edge. The owner--big, domineering, with hands on his hips--tells him to shut off his radio. There's a hint of a smile on the kid's face, like he's holding back on a killer joke. And then he decides to go for it. There's a line and he doesn't just cross it--he crashes through it, blade in hand.

This is Harvey Keitel in Fingers (1978), one of the oft-forgotten and neglected character performances of the '70s, that great era of gritty, no-holds-barred crime dramas.

James Toback is the film's director, and the name carries with it a slew of notoriety, some stories unbelievable, others ridiculous and a couple disturbing. Despite having directed only a handful of films in his 75 years, Toback carved a reputation as a fearless, rebellious and "devil-may-care" director. With Fingers he burst onto the independent scene with the vigor and energy of someone who thinks they won't get another chance and leaves it all on the table. Mediocre, it is not. Aggressive, shocking, heart-wrenching, however...

Keitel is Jimmy Fingers, who dreams of being a concert pianist. His soul sings through the keys. But it also sings through the flash of a blade, the swing of a fist thrown with the intent of doing extreme damage. "If you've ever felt the madness surging inside you," the original trailer voiceover announces in an ominous baritone, "...you know this man."

He works as a debt collector for his father (Michael V. Gazzo) and cruises the city on assignment. Along the way, he carries a portable radio, which blasts the cheerful, sunny tunes of The Drifters, Jerry Vale and The Jamies among others. As he listens, he drums his fingers on table tops, along the backs of chairs, atop his knee and on the invisible keys in front of him. This is the madness in his head, and Toback focuses the story on the Jekyll-Hyde battle between the two trajectories of his fragile personality.

It's hard to imagine another actor pulling off the balancing act. Keitel looks as young as he did in Mean Streets (1973), and his performance and the film itself feel as though they exist in the same sphere of sex, violence and music so ingrained in the Scorsese world. You almost expect Jimmy to pass Travis Bickle on the street. While Keitel's Jimmy Boy has more of a grasp on himself, though, Jimmy is forever on the verge of splitting down the middle.

One of the great scenes takes place in a posh restaurant, as music blasts from his portable radio. He's lost in a trance, but waiting, waiting for an altercation. This is the chaotic in-between state of his mind, the tide pushing him towards the shore then pulling him towards the storm. It must be some kind of hell, and Keitel plays it beautifully. You can't take your eyes off him. He's entrancing, especially following a violent outburst as his fingers desperately feel out the notes of "Summertime, Summertime." He can't help it.

Toback's vision of New York is brown and hot and grit-covered. Summer sun splashes the buildings, but everything remains caught in a muddy haze of sweaty bodies and simmering temper, with the heat approaching a boil.

The supporting cast carries a number of fascinating names: Lenny Montana, the wrestler turned actor famous for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather (1971); Jim Brown, Cleveland full-back who made quite a film career post-football; and Danny Aiello, whose incredible performance as a pizzeria owner facing off against a portable radio-toting customer in Do the Right Thing (1989) is a fascinating echo of a scene in this film. In 2005, French director Jacques Audiard remade Fingers as The Beat My Heart Skipped, a title that is at once more romantic and melancholic but nowhere near as grimy or grim as its source material.

Toback's career has been unsteady and unpredictable, and Fingers disappeared in the noise of its time. In its tale of the battle between dual loyalties, contradictory desires and an internal madness that threatens to consume it all, the film pulses with a desperate power. For crime fans, this isn't one to miss.

By Thomas Davant
Fingers

Fingers

"What if I want a slice of pizza?" It's the way the kid puts the emphasis on the last word. The restrained laughter behind the syllables sets you on edge. The owner--big, domineering, with hands on his hips--tells him to shut off his radio. There's a hint of a smile on the kid's face, like he's holding back on a killer joke. And then he decides to go for it. There's a line and he doesn't just cross it--he crashes through it, blade in hand. This is Harvey Keitel in Fingers (1978), one of the oft-forgotten and neglected character performances of the '70s, that great era of gritty, no-holds-barred crime dramas. James Toback is the film's director, and the name carries with it a slew of notoriety, some stories unbelievable, others ridiculous and a couple disturbing. Despite having directed only a handful of films in his 75 years, Toback carved a reputation as a fearless, rebellious and "devil-may-care" director. With Fingers he burst onto the independent scene with the vigor and energy of someone who thinks they won't get another chance and leaves it all on the table. Mediocre, it is not. Aggressive, shocking, heart-wrenching, however... Keitel is Jimmy Fingers, who dreams of being a concert pianist. His soul sings through the keys. But it also sings through the flash of a blade, the swing of a fist thrown with the intent of doing extreme damage. "If you've ever felt the madness surging inside you," the original trailer voiceover announces in an ominous baritone, "...you know this man." He works as a debt collector for his father (Michael V. Gazzo) and cruises the city on assignment. Along the way, he carries a portable radio, which blasts the cheerful, sunny tunes of The Drifters, Jerry Vale and The Jamies among others. As he listens, he drums his fingers on table tops, along the backs of chairs, atop his knee and on the invisible keys in front of him. This is the madness in his head, and Toback focuses the story on the Jekyll-Hyde battle between the two trajectories of his fragile personality. It's hard to imagine another actor pulling off the balancing act. Keitel looks as young as he did in Mean Streets (1973), and his performance and the film itself feel as though they exist in the same sphere of sex, violence and music so ingrained in the Scorsese world. You almost expect Jimmy to pass Travis Bickle on the street. While Keitel's Jimmy Boy has more of a grasp on himself, though, Jimmy is forever on the verge of splitting down the middle. One of the great scenes takes place in a posh restaurant, as music blasts from his portable radio. He's lost in a trance, but waiting, waiting for an altercation. This is the chaotic in-between state of his mind, the tide pushing him towards the shore then pulling him towards the storm. It must be some kind of hell, and Keitel plays it beautifully. You can't take your eyes off him. He's entrancing, especially following a violent outburst as his fingers desperately feel out the notes of "Summertime, Summertime." He can't help it. Toback's vision of New York is brown and hot and grit-covered. Summer sun splashes the buildings, but everything remains caught in a muddy haze of sweaty bodies and simmering temper, with the heat approaching a boil. The supporting cast carries a number of fascinating names: Lenny Montana, the wrestler turned actor famous for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather (1971); Jim Brown, Cleveland full-back who made quite a film career post-football; and Danny Aiello, whose incredible performance as a pizzeria owner facing off against a portable radio-toting customer in Do the Right Thing (1989) is a fascinating echo of a scene in this film. In 2005, French director Jacques Audiard remade Fingers as The Beat My Heart Skipped, a title that is at once more romantic and melancholic but nowhere near as grimy or grim as its source material. Toback's career has been unsteady and unpredictable, and Fingers disappeared in the noise of its time. In its tale of the battle between dual loyalties, contradictory desires and an internal madness that threatens to consume it all, the film pulses with a desperate power. For crime fans, this isn't one to miss. By Thomas Davant

Quotes

Excuse me. I got a phone call this morning. A voice said to come here and look for a girl on the phone. She'll be the girl of your dreams. 5'5', dark hair, blue eyes. She's wearing a dusty rose bikini and her name is Julie.
- Jimmy Fingers
Well, you made a mistake. I'm 5'6'.
- Julie
I want it from you.
- Jimmy
Want what?
- Julie
Love.
- Jimmy
Why? Do you love me.
- Julie
No, I'm in love with a girl called Carol. I love your...
- Jimmy

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States May 1978

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1994

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1978

Completed production August 1977.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1978

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1994

Released in United States May 1978 (Los Angeles)