We properly finish the Five Films box set with Charles Kiselyak's 2000 video eulogy to John Cassavettes. A Constant Forge finds Cassevettes' friends and creative squad telling anecdotes about the man and his process. The biggest lesson: we've been pronouncing Gena Rowlands' name wrong for the past month.
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.
Two films for the price of one this week as we watch the original 135 minute version of John Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie from 1976 and then his director's cut which runs 108 minutes from 1978. Of course, since this is Cassavetes, the shorter version isn't just a truncated version but a rather different film in design, in character motivation, and quite a bit of plot. Right from the start we see scenes not in the longer original then a restructuring of the narrative's chronology. The pair form a fascinating look into the psyche of an extraordinary director, only compounded by the suggestion that the story is allegorically autobiographical.
There are ways in which A Woman Under the Influence is the most "Hollywood" of the John Cassavetes films we've seen so far. It's got structure! But in other very deep ways it is absolutely the furthest from anything Hollywood would ever put out -- "No one wants to see a crazy, middle-aged dame." It's quite possibly the most emotionally intense film we've ever seen.
Another John Cassavetes film that feels more like an acting exercise than a traditional film. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Like last week's film Shadows, Faces feels improvised (and grew out of improvisation exercises) and it feels all the more real for its looseness.
We kick off a box set of Five Films by John Cassavetes this week with his first feature Shadows (1959). It was a bit of a rough start for the prolific indie auteur who recut the film after a disastrous premiere before leaving the original cut in a subway car. What remains is a fascinatingly realistic look at New Yorkers in the late 50's.