There have only been a handful of film directors who have been commemorated by the United States Postal Service: D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplain, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and John Cassavetes. What all these directors have in common is that they changed the visual language of film. Did I just hear you say, “Who is John Cassavetes?” John Cassavetes is considered the father of independent cinema. He started as an actor and unhappy with how manipulative and canned the experience of watching a film was, decided to make films his way. What was his way? Well, he didn’t really have a way because he had no formal training. All he knew was that he wanted to see film made about people, real people, who communicated as messily as we all do in our everyday lives. Where Godard talked about the limitations of language, Cassavetes’ characters lived the limitation of language. Cassavetes also once said that he had a one track mind and the only topic that really interested him was LOVE. Not the romantic idea of love, but the real love that requires work and struggling, the love that makes you feel very much alive.
Cassavetes also loved his actors. He would often shoot over half a million feet of film, sometimes yelling directions at his cast in the middle of the scene so their performance was always spontaneous. The characters his actors played were passionate, desperate and trying their best to be good. His characters drink and fight and sing and laugh and cry and never give up. Cassavetes’ films don’t have a beginning or an end because life of course is a constant.
A Cassavetes film is as close to a life experience as you can get. For that reason, you may not like it. If you approach a Cassavetes film wanting it to be something familiar or with any kind of expectations, you will hate his films…and the truth is, he probably would love if you hated his films because that would mean that he made you feel and that feeling may stick with you for the next decade of your life. That’s what he wants because he hated entertainment and distraction. A Cassavetes film will make you FEEL. A Cassavetes film may even make you grow.
A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE
SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY AT 7PM AT THE WHITSELL AUDITORIUM (934 SW Salmon St.), is his greatest achievement, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) starring Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes’ wife) and Peter Falk. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Director and was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and was one of the very first films selected for national preservation.
John Cassavetes’ devastating drama details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. Starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands (in two of the most harrowing screen performances of the 1970s) as a married couple deeply in love yet unable to express that love in terms the other can understand, the film is an uncompromising portrait of domestic turmoil. The NW Film Center is proud to present one of the benchmark films of American independent cinema—a heroic document from a true maverick director.
LISTEN…you don’t need to see any other film this month if you only see A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. It’s one of those rare life changing films. I’m not promising that you’ll like the impact it makes on you, but it will definitely make you feel something and after all, isn’t that what life is about?
There is so much more that could be said about this film and Cassavetes himself, but I think my input is pointless. Just see the film and if you want, I’d be happy to discuss the film or the director with you personally.
A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE PLAYS SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY, 7PM AT THE WHITSELL AUDITORIUM. And just to prove a point about the significance of this film, it’s the only film I’m going to mention this week. Go read the paper if you want to see what else is playing.