We reach the end of the Five Films by John Cassavetes (though not quite the end of the boxset) with Opening Night from 1977 which, like A Woman Under the Influence, stars Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands. Next week we'll discover that we've been pronouncing her name wrong, but don't let that distract you from her brilliant performance here. Sure the resolution of her character's issues could have been better, and we propose a change to the final scene that would have made this movie beyond compare, but it's still pretty doggone amazing.
Robert Altman has had a long and varied career and Pat and I have only been familiar with his commercial highlights: M.A.S.H., Popeye -- plus for some reason I've seen Gosford Park and A Prairie Home Companion. None of them in the Collection though Altman does make quite a showing.
His first film that Criterion presents to us is 3 Women from 1977, a surreal and dreamlike drama of identity theft, which is appropriate since apparently Altman was inspired to make the film from a dream that he was making a film in the desert with Shelly Duvall and Sissy Spacek and decided that, hey, he should do that.
What happens when a man is so singularly obsessed with possessing a woman that he doesn't even pay attention to who she is? It's a question possibly only accidentally asked by Luis Bunuel in That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). Bunuel's final film, it is also arguably rather autobiographical, and from what we've learned from Bunuel he is the sort of self-deluded fool that thinks he knows himself so well to make a film like this as autobiographical. While it certainly contains Bunuel's common satire of the upperclass, this film subdues his famous surreality into just how people react, or don't react, to what's going on around them. Oh, and the female lead is played by two different women and no one notices. The film is either brilliant or really dumb. Or both.
In his 1977 film The Last Wave Peter Weir sought to show what it would be like if a pragmatic person started to have visions. Of course, a pragmatic person who starts to have visions would ignore them, so the premise is flawed in any attempt to make a film longer than thirty seconds. Instead what Weir makes is the classic tale of a white man trying to find meaning in traditional spiritualism after becoming disillusioned with modernity, unfortunately with all the problems such a premise usually comes with. That is not to say this is a racist or even bad film, but it certainly doesn't handle its story nearly as well as Peter Weir probably thinks it does. And yet, it remains interesting and engaging.