Why I need to see Cassavetes

The BFI is showing John Cassavetes’ film


, on 19th + 20th February.

I’m somewhat obsessed by the idea of this film. I’ve never seen it, never seen anything by Cassavetes. Every review I read makes his films seem more urgent and powerful and alive than anything else out there. I’ve even been avoiding watching them via internet/dvd, for the sake of getting the total trapped immersion of the cinema.

Unfortunately the reviewer who


makes me want to see Faces is just too overwhelmed to even write about it. She keeps on edging up towards discussing him, then retreating because it’s too much . But here are some simpler explanations:

John Cassavetes’ “Faces” is the sort of film that makes you want to grab people by the neck and drag them into the theater and shout: “Here!”….What Cassavetes has done is astonishing. He has made a film that tenderly, honestly and uncompromisingly examines the way we really live. [Roger Ebert]

What emerges from the series of encounters it depicts is less a narrative than a succession of alternating intensities….Cassavetes films his characters with such deep compassion that even the crudest sally comes off as a gesture of love, a misguided bid for recognition. And when that recognition comes, in brief flashes…there’s a shock of emotional truth we rarely get to experience in life, let alone at the movies. [Slate]

Shot in black and white and overflowing with naturalistic, seemingly unscripted dialogue (Cassavetes films only sound improvised), [Faces] was a tour de force so radically different from American movies of the period as to be sui generis….Many critics prefer their art with subtitles or not at all. Cassavetes dared to believe that art and movies were not mutually exclusive, and he never gave up on the movies’ capacity to move us, to make us feel, to connect us to the world and to other people.

[New York Times]

Many of his films—as difficult as an abstract canvas—are flush with a primitive intensity that makes them, at times, an ordeal to sit through.

Watching a Cassavetes film, you feel like a witness to a familial intervention, or to an all-night orgy of dysfunctional louts. His characters—over-the-hill, alcoholic, depressed, and desperate—seem to be stabbing at life, trying to find a part of it that still breathes so they can kill it, His camera is never more than an arm’s length away from these cocktailhour dysfunctionals, pummeling them until they give in and tell us the truth [Movie Maker]

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