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Poll

Your Favorite John Cassavetes Film Is...

Shadows
4 (10%)
Too Late Blues
0 (0%)
A Child Is Waiting
0 (0%)
Faces
0 (0%)
Husbands
0 (0%)
Minnie and Moskowitz
0 (0%)
A Woman Under the Influence
16 (40%)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
4 (10%)
Opening Night
0 (0%)
Gloria
0 (0%)
Love Streams
1 (2.5%)
Big Trouble
0 (0%)
haven't seen any
13 (32.5%)
don't like any
2 (5%)

Total Members Voted: 39

Author Topic: Cassavetes, John  (Read 7732 times)

Sandy

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2014, 09:08:05 AM »
Martin, I was scrolling through the recent posts and saw the picture you chose. Without seeing which thread the post was from, I knew instantly that is was a Cassavetes film, so it's really true what you said, "Only Cassavetes really feels like Cassavetes." I'm a little intrigued by the themes and may watch Shadows at some point.

MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #31 on: October 10, 2014, 11:23:23 AM »
whereas the more well to do in Shadows are white people (I'm reaching there memory wise, that's how I remember it).

No one in Shadows seems particularly well-to-do.  The "literary party" is largely white, but there isn't any indication that the guests are well off (we know that one is an exotic dancer).  I would say just about everyone in the film is somewhere on the middle-class spectrum.  The scene where class may play a role in the racial divide is when the white club owner tells Hugh he has to introduce the line dancers if he wants to sing.

MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #32 on: October 10, 2014, 11:27:03 AM »
Martin, I was scrolling through the recent posts and saw the picture you chose. Without seeing which thread the post was from, I knew instantly that is was a Cassavetes film, so it's really true what you said, "Only Cassavetes really feels like Cassavetes." I'm a little intrigued by the themes and may watch Shadows at some point.

Unfortunately I still don't have a Blu-Ray drive in my computer, so I had to rely on outside sources for my screenshot.  Usually I go to DVDBeaver for that.  Out of the shots they had, this one felt the most Cassavetes-ish to me.

verbALs

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #33 on: October 10, 2014, 11:38:40 AM »
So this is my old review of Shadows;

Shadows has a raw feeling to it. Whilst it plays like a student film, for all the young actors involved and the disjointedness; mainly due to improvisation, that isn't exactly how I mean "raw". In fact, in its look and style, it reminded most of Kubrick's Killer's Kiss, which is a beautifully shot piece, for something that looks like everyone met on a street corner, one day, to make a movie. I'm not sure if Cassavetes is so well-regarded for how his films look as for what they say, but each of his films looks really well-composed to me. It's the balance between what the pictures are saying, about the emotions and harsh light of life; and how cool, well-shot scenes can be. More "cool", to me, than the kids playing at intellectualism and artistry portrayed in the film.

Kids. It's the wrong word. Shadows captures some of the growing pains of young men. The guy who is caught with the shock on his face, when he realises his girlfriend is black. He can't escape it or hide from it. It is the centre of a film that had been quite relaxed presenting both races, working together. It does a lovely job of how this new "beat" generation, were taking a left cultural turn. Where Jazz is revered, and Jazz represents a disintegration of a racial barrier- music is so cool at shattering brittle, stupid obstacles in life. Unfortunately, one young man hasn't processed the implications of this new culture quickly enough; and is stranded with his guard down. He may have reasoned the whole incident had he been given the chance, but the story doesn't allow him that luxury. In Lumet's Q&A, the edifice of Timothy Hutton's entire idea about himself is destroyed because he has a racism inside himself that everybody seems to be able to read on his face. In late 80s NYC, people feel pity for him, or use it to manipulate him. In the fermenting 50s, the man is rejected, perhaps rightly, for an ignorant prejudice, that, being an intellectual cat he might have been able to hide, given enough warning. Beautifully handled, you can feel empathy, if not, sympathy, for both sides.

There is another section, where these guys face the consequences of tom-catting around, as young men do. One faces up; saying, you are bound to take a punch if you go looking for trouble. Another decides it isn't worth the pain. Two men at a crossroads being handed street lessons by the city. I love that mess.

I wonder if Cassavetes is an acquired taste. The improv has a brittle feel to it, but it is very much the man's forté. The "cool" is another touch. I could feel myself brushing past the stuttering nature to the dialogue, as if I can see where it works so well in later films, so here are the baby steps. The intellectual conversations in Shadows are the most painful to listen to. I feel the creator's strength is in presenting working people at rest and play; where emotions come out sideways sometimes, and not everyone knows the right things to say, or has the right cultural reference. Guys sitting around a table singing or strippers watching a martial arts movie. Art is an intellectual pursuit, and it has those pretensions, so studying the working guy in his habitat isn't the natural milieu for film. I like John Cassavetes so much, because he is so raw in this environment, and his people are extraordinarily ordinary.
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MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #34 on: October 10, 2014, 11:49:07 AM »
I feel the creator's strength is in presenting working people at rest and play; where emotions come out sideways sometimes, and not everyone knows the right things to say

Absolutely.  Great lines in a Cassavetes film seem to burst out accidentally, sideways as you say.

MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #35 on: October 11, 2014, 05:11:31 PM »

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (rewatch) - Movies that exist in multiple cuts sometimes present the viewer with a difficult decision to make.  Sometimes the choice is clear... you're probably not going to opt for the studio-butchered "Love Conquers All" cut of Brazil except out of morbid curiosity.  Other times it's not so simple.  While I believe the "Final Cut" of Blade Runner is a better film, I still have lingering nostalgia for the Deckard narration in the original theatrical release.  Chinese Bookie was released in 1976 in a 135-minute cut, which is the one I watched ten years ago.  It tanked at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and was yanked out of distribution after a week.  Cassavetes re-cut the film and in 1978 released on a 109-minute version.  There isn't a clear consensus on which is the superior cut, and part of that may stem from differing accounts of why Cassavetes did it.  Some say the first cut was rushed and Cassavetes being Cassavetes, he wouldn't have re-cut it unless that's what he wanted to do.  Others believe it was an artistic compromise to make the movie more accessible.

What I remembered most about the 1976 cut were the interminable cabaret scenes.  In my review at the time, I said I should have watched the later version (which, although shorter, contains scenes that do not appear in the longer version, making the choice even more of a challenge).  But part of me wanted to tackle that longer cut again.  If I appreciate Cassavetes, shouldn't I want more Cassavetes?  Shouldn't I want the pure, uncompromising, difficult Cassavetes?  But the thought of watching all those tedious burlesque scenes again... the point is made well enough in just a few minutes.  And so I went with the re-cut, with the idea that if I liked it enough then the next time I would revisit the first release.  Besides, I'm inclined to agree with those who think he really wanted to re-edit the film.  He's clearly not the type of director who would go against his vision to please an audience, placate an investor or studio, or make more money.

And with this is mind, I now have a greater appreciation for the autobiographical nature of the film, about an artist who builds his own world, and that world is compromised by outside influences.  Part of it is due to his own character flaws: he gambles money he doesn't have, putting his business (and his life, and his art) in jeopardy.  But part of it is the parasitic nature of the gangsters, who see an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, in a very literal sense.  Cosmo preaches that a comfortable man is a happy man, and the mobsters have invaded his comfort, forced him to be something he is not.  Ben Gazzara's performance is spellbinding, and you can see it in his eyes as he assesses a situation and tries to decide how to play it.  You can see the passion he has for his show, an absolute shambles of a show but it's his and it's what he loves.  It was also a treat to revisit this film with a much greater affection for Tim Carey, an actor who fascinates me to no end.  I could watch that dude all day long.

Still, I can't say I love the movie.  The shorter cut has some wonderful character moments, but I must say it does seem to stick too close to the plot, which isn't an especially original one.  Somewhere between the indulgence of the '76 cut and the leanness of the '78 cut is a film that has a good mix of narrative and authorial personality.  Or maybe not... maybe this material isn't interesting enough to be molded into a great movie, no matter how you cut it.  But it does have a certain unique something to it.  It's got that Cassavetes vibe to it, that nervous and excited feeling that anything could happen, that you never know what someone is going to say.  Cosmo is an intriguing character because underneath the style you want to see what makes him tick.  It's enough to convince me that next time I'll give the original cut another go.  Maybe.  Rating: Good (76)

verbALs

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #36 on: October 12, 2014, 03:14:07 AM »
This one was a B+ for me. I remember liking it a lot for just being damn charming. My write-up suggests I was identifying very closely with the characters, because I appear to have turned American for the duration....disturbing;

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ben Gazzara (Road House), king of the low-lifes, who revolve around him in a spiral of hellish degradation. Some cats have warm hearts, and Cosmo (Gazzara, (Road House)) treats his strippers well, like true artistes. He takes them to Chinese films, not the act of cruelty some might suppose. They get lost in chop-socky, time passes and the hit gets passed by. Some dudes are stone cold demons; once the hooks are in baby, you're cooked. They give you a choice of guns as an act of bonhomie, and a car that you better not stall 'cos it's hot-wired, to get you to the place where the thing...you know the thing, goes down. Tim Carey escorts Cosmo arm in arm to tap some sense into the pigeon. It's a loving beating, never in the face Bobo.

Gazzara (Road House) rocks a blazer. Various bad men sport sideburns of the third degree variety. Beautiful women shed clothes for dollars. It's all still Cassavettes, who has made friends with Mr. Coyle. He lets Carey off the leash as contractually obliged. Otherwise, people relate. They walk and talk like flesh and blood. Once you put aside the luxuries of cinema melodrama and go to the streets, you better know... you just better. Ordinary people, acting ordinary can be so dull. Cassavettes understands that the third dimension is in dialogue, charm, charisma rather than camera technology.

Some people like their directors. I like good acting. Cassavettes goes from one room full of character to another, who cares what the plot is. Then he gets out of the way. This film is framed, and, to an extent, constrained by the genre plot, but once the gang get together to just talk....stuff; it's the genuine article.



I have this image on a postcard that I had stuck above my computer for years. I associate both men as actors' directors, and I see a schoolboy look on Cassavettes' face; Huston telling him something important. Chinese Bookie is possibly the closest Cassavettes gets to a Huston movie, but he properly subverts it. His people are too busy hanging out to do the....thing, you know the thing.

I also talk about Gazzara's blazers. Must have influenced my wardrobe cos I'm rocking a nice tweed blazer currently (I have enough grey hair to match).
« Last Edit: October 12, 2014, 04:00:27 AM by verbALs »
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MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #37 on: October 18, 2014, 09:27:26 PM »

A Woman Under the Influence (rewatch) - As it's one of my top 5, I really ought to have a thorough, thoughtful review of this movie.  But I've been sitting here at my computer, trying to find the words that encapsulate everything about this movie, and everything I feel about it (and also feeling like a schmuck for falling back on that old cliché, writing about not being able to write).  Like Mabel and Nick, I'm having a communication problem.  I don't know how to express my love.  But I'm just going to spill it out, and whatever happens, happens.  I'm going to improvise.

No performance moves me like Gena Rowland's shattering portrayal of Mabel Longhetti.  She works wonders with an incredibly nuanced, complex performance, making every gesture and look and verbal stutter pack a punch.  Mabel wants desperately to please.  She's willing to be whatever Nick wants her to be.  She also knows that she should just be herself, and that battle inside her has frazzled her nerves.  She's out of touch with polite social graces, unaware (and paradoxically, all too aware) that her eccentricity makes others feel awkward.  Sometimes she doesn't communicate properly... and sometimes no one listens properly.  "Will you stand up for me?" is one of the most heartbreaking lines I know of.  None of her "crazy" behavior is actually harmful... it's just inappropriate.  It looks funny.  Adults aren't supposed to act like that.  They're supposed to have "conversation, normal conversation".  The weather.  How are you?  Whatcha been doing?

At least, that's what Nick thinks.  Nick is just as CINECAST!ed up as Mabel, if not more so... it's just that his craziness looks more socially acceptable.  He loves Mabel.  He clearly, sincerely loves Mabel and her kookiness.  But he feels a need to control every situation, especially when others are looking on.  Anything awkward that Mabel does is made ten times worse by Nick's reaction to it.  The "influence" that the woman is under is not drugs or alcohol (although we see that when Mabel drinks, she does it irresponsibly).  The influence is Nick.  Nick wants one thing (the "real" Mabel) when they're alone and another thing (the "normal" wife he can beam proudly about) when others are around.  Nick's embarrassment over Mabel makes him lash out and try to control her... and if he can't control her with stern looks and scolding condemnation, then he resorts to violence.

It's one of the miracles of this film -- and Peter Falk's performance, which is also brilliant -- that he can strike Mabel and you can understand it.  Let me be perfectly clear: understand it, not condone it or accept it or forgive it.  Nick isn't a hero.  If you see Nick as the long-suffering husband who rightfully smacks his wife to keep her under control, then you're reading it wrong or you have your own issues to deal with.  But you can understand how a person with Nick's overwhelming need to control everyone around him (even dictating how his children will enjoy themselves at the beach) would snap.  And you can understand how a person so desperate to be loved and accepted would forgive him.  He's a human being, she's a human being.  They love each other.

And yet it's not that simple and it's never that simple and that's one of the things that makes this movie so rewarding, besides its raw, searing emotional power.  Sometimes a person is terrible to you one minute and loving the next, and who isn't a little bit crazy, and who doesn't want to dance on a couch sometimes, and who doesn't sometimes cringe when someone else is dancing on the couch?  How do we love each other?  How do we juggle being what we want to be and being what others want us to be and being what we think others want us to be and at the same time love another human being?  It's messy and complicated and so goddamn real it rips your guts out.  Life is mighty stormy in the Longhetti house, but their dysfunction is the way they function, and isn't so far off from anyone else's dysfunction.  In the end, Nick and Mabel get ready for bed, and jaunty kazoo music plays on the soundtrack, and the phone is ringing and it's probably Nick's mother and for once Nick isn't going to answer it.  Does this mean everything's okay?  That's too easy, but I do think that they've come a little closer to learning how to properly love each other.  There is hope.  Rating: Masterpiece (100)
« Last Edit: October 18, 2014, 09:54:47 PM by MartinTeller »

1SO

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2014, 10:46:14 PM »
Beautiful review. It's such a human film. I think that's something Cassavetes has always aimed for, the messiness of being human.  He's always good at inverting something like the perfected approach of David Fincher, but his end result is often just as artificial. It's like acoustic music is the opposite of heavy metal, but it's ALSO an approach that calls attention to itself. Woman Under the Influence is where his techniques ring the most true. Where the humanity overpowers the actors acting. Thanks for bringing that out in your review.

Have you read anything good that compares and contrasts Woman with Scenes From a Marriage? They have to be the 2 best films about married life.

MartinTeller

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Re: Directors Best Poll - John Cassavetes
« Reply #39 on: October 18, 2014, 11:16:18 PM »
I haven't, but just moments ago I was thinking about the similarities between the two films.

 

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