The music of chance

musicTomorrow’s film is based on Paul Auster’s novel “The Music of Chance”.

Below you will find two short reviews of the novel, so that you will get a general idea of what the film will be about.


Compulsive traveller Jim Nashe finances an epic poker match for a self-proclaimed jackpot winner. "In his lucid, captivating yarn, Auster quietly raises disturbing questions of servants and masters, of loyalty, freedom and the inexplicable urge to kill".

This insightful novel is a taut study of the self-contradictory mind living by chance while thinking it can get away with anything. Jim Nashe is a frivolous Boston fireman who needs music as a life crutch. His wife abandons him just before his father dies, leaving him money that he squanders aimlessly while driving around America. Near desperation, he meets a bitter young itinerant gambler, Jack ("Jackpot") Pozzi, who lures him into a losing poker game with two shady recluses, Flower and Stone, on their Pennsylvania estate. Nashe and Pozzi must retire their debt by building a stone wall on the premises: what this Herculean labour does to them is the novel’s leitmotif. An interesting story, but some may object that the journalistic prose merely tells the story instead of showing it.books


This is a short review of the film


Documentary filmmaker Philip Haas made his dramatic feature film debut with The Music of Chance, adapted from Paul Auster‘s terse, existential novel. The film follows the plight of two hapless drifters — Jim Nashe (Mandy Patinkin), who is escaping family and responsibility with an inheritance and a red BMW, and Jack Pozzi (James Spader), a down-on-his-luck gambler and world class manipulator. Pozzi convinces Nashe to shoot the works and put his remaining $10,000 into a high stakes poker game against two rich suckers — reclusive lottery winners Willie Stone (Joel Grey) and Bill Flower (Charles Durning), who share a lavish but isolated country estate, using the remains of their lottery fortune to construct a self-contained world on the grounds of their mansion. Instead of bilking the two millionaires, however, Pozzi and Nashe lose their windfall and find themselves indebted to Stone and Flowers, who compel them to work off their losses by constructing a stone monument on their estate, a chore that results in deception, flight, and possibly murder. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide


music of

Look at the trailer


Look at some clips from the film


What are the main themes of this film?

What about the choice of songs? Do you think music emphasises the main theme of the film? If yes, How?

This is the first film we have watched so far that does not see Paul Auster as film script writer.  Is there anything in the choices of the film director that makes this blatant?

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33 Responses to The music of chance

  1. anonimo says:

    At the beginning I didn’t appreciate the music of chance very much,but I reflected and actually,it deals with important themes such as chance,jim nashe and jack pozzi met by accident,it is a strange meeting because these two characters are completely different and seem to have nothing in common but during the film the spectator understands that they have an important thing in common,the destiny,they both will be stuck in the property of the two eccentric gamblers in order to extinguish their debt. Other topics of the film are the contraposition between the physical and psychological oppression and the importance of freedom that characterizes the movie,the gambler-addiction,the irrepressible lust of power that afflicts the two rich gamblers,in fact they want to control material goods and people,and the annihilation of the two main characters that become pawns in the hands of two usurpers.

    I think music plays an important role in the movie,it emphasises the atmosphere of the main themes,it is moving the scene where nashe sings a beautiful song(Jerusalem if I don’t mistake)because for the first time he shows his feelings,in fact I found strange nashe’s reaction to the imprisonment,he accepted all the maltreatments without rebelling,he seemed resigned as if his life wasn’t worthy to be lived too much so he decided not to fight for freedom.

    This is the first film that does not see Auster as film script writer..i don’t know if it right,maybe we can notice it from the lack of spontaneity,in the other films the actors could perhaps modify the cues and make them more personal,in the music of chance they seem more planned and prepared.

    Montrasio Valentina

  2. anonimo says:

    At last, I could watch the film.

    Two distraught men, who’ ve lost everything, have to build a will as punishment for their foolishness; a way to expiate their wrong. The film could be seen with the different eyes of the two characters: Jim Nashe, he is on a journey with a BMW to search for answer, he knows that these wall is the right punishment; and Jack Pozzi, a gambler, he sees in the wall only a jail and his inability to understand brings him to the death. Jim shows with his will for atonement that he has understand how man is responsible of his own choices. Only relaxation allowed to him is the reading, the second main theme of the film, and opposite of this judicious use of time, there is what degrades the man, as the prostitution. Above-mentioned, Jim is on a journey with a BMW, but really he is in a inner journey, in order to understand him better. Whole film is accompanied with a correct soundtrack, able to emphasize the Nashe’s pain for the loss of his father and wife, amd, after, his will of escape.

    Between the four film, this is the only which has all that is necessary: a star (Jim) and an antagonist (the rich men and the guardian). Unlike the other film, the presence of Paul Auster is lesser. However, this makes the film like many other. So I prefer “SMOKE”, original and innovative.

    Nicola truant

  3. anonimo says:

    The story deals with different themes (the gamble – addiction of Mr. Pozzi, which self – consciousness and selfishness leads both the protagonists to their ruin; the psychological disorder of Jim Nashe; the frenzy of power of the two rich men and the boredom that bring them in absurd and foolish hobbies: they act as they were the silent and invisible masters of their little world, in which they confine and imprison the protagonists as slaves, and they play with them as stupid puppets; the theme of the real and psychological imprisonment, which slowly leads the two “marionettes” to a sort of madness), all interlinked by the major theme of the role of chance in life (the casualness of events, the randomness of circumstances, the existence of strange and unique coincidences). Music plays an essential role in the game of chance: at the beginning of the film it warns us of the imminent switchover with a quick shift (from a classical and ambient song to a timed jazz one), than it emphasizes the frightful sense of anguish of the two prisoners with a perpetual tune, always following the emotional progress of the scenes (especially in the end when the movie restart form Jim’s point of view). After “Smoke” this is the movie that I liked most. I am conscious that maybe this is more commercial than the other films we have seen, but it’s not difficult to understand that under this plot there is the able hand of a stager: the story goes on properly, no fixedness and immobility, no embarrassing sketches, no long and boring dialogues.

    Alessandro Piccin

  4. anonimo says:

    It is amazing the way many of Auster ‘s main themes are adapted to a film: chance is unevitable in Auster’s works.. The chance meeting of Nashe and Pozzi, two completely different men with completely different stories, co-operate in order to solve some of their problems. Than there’s the solitude: both Jim and Jack are “lonely”, for Jim this was a choice, for Jack we don’t know but certainly people usually try to keep far from poor gamblers! Family is another important theme: Jim was abandoned by his wife just before his father’s death; Jim’s reaction to all this was leaving his daughter with his sister and squander the huge amount of money left by his father driving around America. As usual money means power and easy solution to Jim’s problems but it comes and goes and when you don’t have money, rich people easily enslave you and this is what happens. Imprisonment and the search for freedom are typical in Auster as we read for example in “Travels in the Scriptorium” and in “Double Play”, even if Jim doesn’t really seem to want to gain freedom till the very end of the story when he changes and betters himself.

    Music emphasizes differently each step of the story, classic at the beginning, than jazz music and anguishing when things become worse.. Music is even a deep expression of feelings as we see when Nashe sings a sad, moving song that involves the audience even more..

    I really appreciated watching this movie, I found the choice of Auster’s final cameo very funny and surprising.. Perhaps he has a future as background figure! 🙂 I’m joking, it’s a funny way to say that anyway this is a good film, the director suits perfectly the way Auster works and has even good ideas.

    –Maiutto Jessica–

  5. anonimo says:

    I haven’t seen yet the movie, so I can’t explain my thoughts, but I have read something on the Net and I heard the discussion in the class about the movie and I’ve understood that it’s a film based on the meaning of case and, as the title, the chances in our lives. I’ ve understood that Auster wants to explain that in our life there isn’t Luck that doesn’t control our lives, but is an our instrument that we use to charge someone for our defeats. Our lives and good results depend on our responsibilities and our actions. Also…our life doesn’t depens on the object that we have…but who we are…

    About the music…I can’t say about the role of the music in the film, but I can say that (as a lover of music =) ) the music in films is very important, it can envelop people in the atmosphere of the film and in his feelings.

    Laura Sist

  6. anonimo says:

    There are several different themes in the film: the Wall is seen by Jim Nashe as the just punishment for his misconduct and for its mistakes, while mr. Wells is only a timetable where erase the day, something that the traps him in their harsh reality.

    Furthermore, there is a clear vision of the gamble-addiction , in fact this “disease” brings Jack to death and Jim almost to madness. The gambler is obsessed by the game and also loses all his dignity of man, also without accepting the consequences. Jim is dragged into this vortex but it takes its responsibilities, completing his punishment. The Chance has put the two on the same road, and after has divided them. the chance is the king of the film, because acting on all the events, the end of Jack and the salvation of Jim.

    Another theme is the music that accompanies the whole film, emphasizing the most important scenes, accelerating the pace or reducing it.

    literature is the only relief of Jim, who take refuge in it to endure the pain of reality and hard work.

    sorry for being late.

    Matteo Cervesato

  7. anonimo says:

    First of all I would like to say that I finally found a film (based on a Auster’s novel) that I liked.

    However, the main theme is, obviously, the “chance”. Nashe is became rich by chance, Pozzi bases his life on chance (of course there are some techniques in poker but they couldn’t ever work!), Nashe met Pozzi by chance… So this is an important theme in the movie but is not the only one. There is the theme of “inner growing along the story”, a kind of “Bildungsroman” that involves only Nashe.

    In fact Pozzi is a flat character: his behaviour is the same from the beginning till his death. I really liked the character of Pozzi, he is funny (I loved the scene where he runs over the wall till its end) but he is also convinced of what is doing and what is going to do (certainly only about gamble!). He lives for poker, he thinks that he is not able to do anything but gambling. He could be seen as the common person that lives in a society and does not know (or does not want to know) what is going on around his world.

    On the other hand there is Nashe. He is a superficial man, who trusted Pozzi at first sight (I was very surprised at the beginning of the movie: how could he give Pozzi a lift? I mean, that man was so bloodied and he gave him a lift as he was a harmless nun…). Nashe also had to face with the “problem” of money: he suddenly became rich and he does not know what he has to do.

    This two (different) lives crushed one into the other and then the real Game starts. They played poker but they lost so they were forced to settle their debts building a meaningless and useless wall with 10000 stones for Flower and Stones. The wall is only a physical obstacle for Pozzi that will bring him to death (for his attempts to escape). Nashe instead sees the wall as a punishment of his behaviour, a way of thinking about his past and his mistakes. Day by day he understand something new, something that he did wrong (for example he thinks about his daughter looking her photograph; he probably understand his biggest mistake: left her).

    At the end (after the disappearance/death of Pozzi) Nashe starts to understand that the building of the wall is not a payment for their debts but mostly a prison that cannot be left alive. He understands that there’s only a way to put a stop to it: not words but actions.

    As long as it was an Auster’s novel, I already expected an end that coincides with the beginning: as he did in “The travels in the scriptorium”, Auster wants to remark the fact that life moves on in a circular way. It was foreseeable but I really enjoy Auster’s “cameo” at the end (I have to admit that, as long as I saw him at the end, I tried to imagine him in the role of Nashe…it could have been great!).

    The movie was more linear then the others (I understand very soon that Auster was not the director neither the scriptwriter: he would have complicated the story planning a non-linear plot), and, as Marco and Monica said, this probably makes it a more commercial movie.

    I have to apologize because I was concentrate to the dialogues and I didn’t pay too much attention to the music. But I’d really like to watch it again (maybe paying more attention especially to the music!).

    Elena Poles

  8. anonimo says:

    first of all…as always I’m late…and so I have to beg your pardon…I think this was the film of auster I didn’t like…maybe because I wasn’t able to understand all diologues…however…the main themes are,in my opinion, the importance of family,love,the meaning and the riscs of gambling…and obviously the chance that guides everything!family is analysed in an extended sense:for exemple even the couple of friends(stone and flower)is seen as a family,then, also jack represents family to Jim, who is excaping family but takes care of his new friends as a close relative,excaping from his real family.

    music plays an important role in this film…first of all music was classic and there is in the film a song sang by jim whose words where written by the english poet W.Blake…I don’t really understand why they made this choice but I think they wanted to involve better the public(I remember in particular the climax provoqued by the music during the journay by car of jim)and maybe underline the incoming of a repeted event leaded by chance.

    in the end,I personally thought that the script writer was once again Auster , because the theme of casuality is recurrent in Auster’s works…however I find funny to see him, once at least protagonist(or better objecy) of the chance,he is used to guide and to control with his writing….


  9. PaulAuster2008 says:

    As Simone pointed out, in this film there are the main themes developed by Auster in his fiction. I think it appealed to most of you more than the other films, because the film director was not Paul Auster so he could have an “external” view and approach to the novel. It is more difficult, I think, for a writer to shoot a film based on his novel, since you are too involved in it and it is difficult to take some distance and see how the story can be best adapted into a film.

    Nice and interesting insights. Thumb up for all of you!

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