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With a bowl-haircut and an oddly bisexual demeanor, Jimmy Fingers (Harvey Keitel) is in constant, jittery motion, always listening to something. As Fingers (1978) begins, he's playing a Bach piece on the piano, but soon he switches to some '60s girl-group pop music to pick up on Carol (Tisa Farrow). She's interested in his music, but he can't get a handle on her. In fact, the more time they spend with each other, the harder it is to get a handle on her odd sexual relationship with Dreems (Jim Brown). And as Jimmy trains for an audition at Carnegie Hall, his loan-sharking father Ben (Michael V. Gazzo, best know as Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II) asks him to do some collections-work, which leads the aspiring pianist down some darkened roads. A film truly unlike any other, James Toback's Fingers probably couldn't have been made in any time except the '70s, and it wouldn't have worked had it not starred Harvey Keitel as Jimmy. Part character-study, part writer-fantasy, what one must accept with Toback's best films is that his main character is always an alter-ego of himself (evident even with his first script for 1974's The Gambler — and all the more apparent in 2002's Harvard Man). Sometimes it works, often it's obnoxious. But in this film, the author becomes more than just himself. Keitel's performance is masterpiece of twitching; Jimmy is full of kinetic energy, and with it he pulls off a neat trick: At first his twitchy beats seem erratic, but as the film plays on, the more his rhythms becomes evident. Keitel makes the most of this author/character — it's naked at times and self-aggrandizing at others, but always interesting. Toback has a fascination with sex and sexual encounters, which give his pictures a raw erotic energy. In one of the movie's strangest and most exciting moments, Jimmy corners the girlfriend (Tanya Roberts) of one of his marks and seduces her, but the seduction borders on rape. Choppy and awkwardly structured, Fingers works because so many of the scenes and images are so memorable, and even when the film seems awkward and scattershot, it leaves an impression. Warner's DVD release presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Extras include an insightful audio commentary by Toback, a featurette featuring Keitel and Toback (5 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.

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