250-256 John Cassavetes: Five Films

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Martha
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250-256 John Cassavetes: Five Films

#1 Post by Martha » Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:39 pm

John Cassavetes: Five Films

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John Cassavetes was a genius, a visionary, and the progenitor of American independent film, but that doesn’t begin to get at the generosity of his art. A former theater actor fascinated by the power of improvisation, Cassavetes brought his search for truth in performance to the screen. The five films in this collection—all of which the director maintained total control over by financing them himself and making them outside the studio system—are electrifying and compassionate creations, populated by all manner of humanity: beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, children. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts—shows him to be an audience’s director.

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A Constant Forge

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Charles Kiselyak’s A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes is a detailed journey through the career of one of film’s greatest pioneers and iconoclasts, assembled from candid interviews with Cassavetes’ collaborators and friends, rare photographs, and archival footage.

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A Woman Under the Influence

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John Cassavetes’ devastating drama details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. This is one of the benchmark films of American independent cinema—a heroic document from a true maverick director.

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Faces

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The disintegration of a marriage is dissected in John Cassavetes' searing Faces. Shot in high-contrast 16mm black and white, the film follows the futile attempts of captain of industry Richard (John Marley) and his wife, Maria (Lynn Carlin), to escape the anguish of their empty marriage in the arms of others. Featuring astonishingly powerful, nervy performances from Marley, Carlin, and Cassavetes regulars Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel, Faces confronts suburban alienation and the battle of the sexes with a brutal honesty and compassion rarely matched in cinema.

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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

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John Cassavetes engages film noir in his own inimitable style. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays gentlemen’s club owner Cosmo Vitelli, a man dedicated to pretenses of composure and self-possession. When he runs afoul of a group of gangsters, Cosmo is forced to commit a horrible crime.

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Opening Night

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In John Cassavetes’ Opening Night, Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) rehearses for her latest play, about a woman unable to admit that she is aging. When she witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, she begins to confront the turmoil she faces in her own life.

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Shadows

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/869/251_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

John Cassavetes' directorial debut revolves around an interracial romance between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman living in New York City with her two brothers, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship crumbles when Tony meets Lelia's brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd), a talented dark-skinned jazz singer struggling to find work, and discovers the truth about Lelia's racial heritage. Shot on location in Manhattan with a cast and crew made up primarily of amateurs, Cassavetes' Shadows is a visionary work that is widely considered the forerunner of the independent film movement.

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Disc Features

- New high-definition digital restorations of all five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
- New high-definition digital restoration of Cassavetes’s 108-minute 1978 version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
- A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes (2000), a 200-minute documentary by Charles Kiselyak
- New interviews with actor Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel about Shadows
- Silent footage from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop, from which Shadows emerged
- Restoration demonstration for Shadows
- Alternate eighteen-minute opening sequence for Faces
- Episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps from 1968, dedicated to Cassavetes
- Making “Faces,” a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Cassel, Lynn Carlin, and Gena Rowlands and director of photography Al Ruban
- Al Ruban on Lighting and Shooting “Faces,” a new video program featuring commentary by Ruban (Blu-ray); Lighting and Shooting the Film, an on-screen essay by Ruban, illustrated with video clips, that discusses the techniques and equipment used on Faces (DVD)
- Audio commentary for A Woman Under the Influence by sound recordist and composer Bo Harwood and camera operator Mike Ferris
-New conversation between Rowlands and actor Peter Falk about A Woman Under the Influence
- New interviews with actor Ben Gazzara and Ruban on The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
- New conversation between Rowlands and Gazzara about Opening Night
- New interview with Ruban about Opening Night
-Audio interviews with Cassavetes from the 1970s about A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night
-Trailers for Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night
- Stills and poster galleries
-Biographical sketches of the actors Cassavetes frequently cast in his films, written by Tom Chartity (John Cassavetes: Lifeworks) (DVD only)
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Gary Giddins, Kent Jones, Charles Kiselyak, Stuart Klawans, Dennis Lim, and Phillip Lopate; writings by and interviews with Cassavetes; and tributes to the filmmaker by director Martin Scorsese; actor and writer Elaine Kagan, Cassavetes’s former secretary; and novelist Jonathan Lethem

solent

#2 Post by solent » Wed Nov 03, 2004 7:03 pm

OPENING NIGHT was the only film I had never seen before. I just watched it for the second time yesterday and I must admit that Rowland's portrayal of an intoxicated person is masterly. I get a hangover just looking at her face during the final scene.

I can't say I understand the Rowlands-Cassavetes on-stage improvisation at the close the the 'New York' performance. I didn't think it was very good at all. The audience seems to be responding due to the fact that they are watching known actors [Rowlands & Cassavetes] rather than the fictional stage actors (who would not have been as successful I feel). In a way this ending mars the film, in terms of unity.

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#3 Post by mingus » Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:58 pm

"Opening Night" happens to be my favorite Cassavetes movie, just because it is so ambitious, has so many levels (getting old, being lonely, loss of meaning, alienation, ...), like most of his films, but here the connections (emotional and storywise), work the best, at least for me.

The on-stage improvisation only seems to be a farce, this is pure Cassavetes and a very serious one at that -this scene stands for: spontaneity, the challenge to react in real time, to think for yourself. You are in a situation where you are forced to act as the real you, because you are in an uncomfortable position, people are watching you, you cannot hide - you have to be honest, because you don't have the time to judge your actions and words. Face the situation, get in the ring with real life. Make the best of even the most tragic situation and in doing so, get ahead of it.
It seems silly and stupid, since it is supposed to be unprepared and Myrtle drunk. It is a dance on a knife's edge - where is the line between hurting someone or having fun together? That's my interpretation.

The Cassavetes Box is a real fine effort and Ray Carney isn't missed at all. I like the whole atmosphere of this release, the wonderful package design, the simple and moody menu-design, all the interviews of John's "old" collaborators, the audio excerpts of interviews with John. I am drunk with joy after spending two days on watching and listening to almost all content. It's a real celebration of John Cassavetes.

Now bring on "Husbands" and i ...

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#4 Post by Faux Hulot » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:52 pm

mingus wrote:Now bring on "Husbands" and I ...
Wouldn't that be something?
Until then, at least we have this to look forward to in December.

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#5 Post by mingus » Fri Nov 05, 2004 4:58 am

"Mikey&Nicky" looks interesting. I have never seen this one, but will definitely give it a try. Thanks for the info, Faux Hulot.

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#6 Post by Hrossa » Fri Nov 05, 2004 3:09 pm

The cover of Mikey and Nicky looks great! I'll definitely be looking forward to it. Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come - Husbands and Love Streams on DVD? That would be great.

In the past month I purchased both The Cassavetes Box and Minnie & Moskowitz, which has become perhaps my favorite Cassavetes film.

Anyone else seen M&M and care to comment? I love A Woman Under the Influence and Faces as well. I even would say I love Opening Night and TKOACB, but M&M is the one that I want to watch every day. The others I could settle for just watching once a week.

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#7 Post by Faux Hulot » Fri Nov 05, 2004 3:24 pm

hrossa wrote:Anyone else seen M&M and care to comment?
I love it! For fun, watch it with different audiences to see wildly different reactions. My ex-mother-in-law was horrifed, but I've also seen people rolling on the floor over it. One friend's mother said it was her favorite film of all time.
hrossa wrote:I love A Woman Under the Influence and Faces as well. I even would say I love Opening Night and TKOACB, but M&M is the one that I want to watch every day. The others I could settle for just watching once a week.
Lately I've been fixated on Chinese Bookie. As filmmaker myself who's still overcoming major hurdles, that one resonates bigtime.
mingus wrote:"Mikey&Nicky" looks interesting. I have never seen this one, but will definitely give it a try. Thanks for the info, Faux Hulot.
You're welcome, it's pretty great. It's been called "The best film Cassavetes never made," and that's an apt compliment.

After you watch Mikey & Nicky, try to track down the episode of Columbo entitled "Etude in Black." Terrific performance by Cassavetes, he and Falk are clearly having a blast. According to some sources (though notably *not* Ray Carney), it was co-directed pseudononymously by Falk and Cassavetes, who took over from their friend Nick Colasanto who took ill during shooting. There's a great scene added at the last minute to pad out a too-short running time that takes place in the mansion of the murderous orchestra conductor (played by Cassavetes); the two talk about how much money it costs, how artists get by (or don't), and that Columbo would have to work 90 years just to live there... nothing at all to do with the plot. Awesome. Also stars Blythe Danner and Myrna Loy, and Pat "Karate Kid" Morita as "The House Boy"! It's available as an R2 DVD with two other episodes.
Last edited by Faux Hulot on Sat Nov 06, 2004 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#8 Post by mingus » Fri Nov 05, 2004 7:31 pm

hrossa wrote:Anyone else seen M&M and care to comment?
I've seen it and like it a lot, especially the marriage scene at the end - what a celebration. Seymour Cassel is also great on the commentary.

Don't get me wrong, while i like Opening Night best, Faces, Husbands and Woman Under The Influence come very close behind.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Minnie and Moskowitz and Shadows (especially Charles Mingus' music) have all scenes that i like to revisit, but they don't get me as hooked(involved) as the above.
Faux Hulot wrote:...Columbo entitled "Etude in Black."
Funny that you mention that episode right now, it was just shown on Austrian Television a couple of weeks ago. Yeah women and flowers can get you into trouble. You're right, great performances by both of them.

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#9 Post by Arn777 » Sun Nov 14, 2004 5:48 pm

I've just finished watching everything on this wonderful box, best dvds of the year for me. One thing that would habe been really cool to have included is a cd with Bo Harwood's music highlights. He wrote some very good scores and I'd love to have it on cd.

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#10 Post by Jun-Dai » Mon Nov 15, 2004 1:55 am

I just looked at the Pioneer/Criterion shootout on dvd beaver for A Woman Under the Influence. Is the Criterion transfer really that bad? There seems to be a lot of detail lost in the hyper-contrastiness, and a tremendous amount of digital artifacting. Or was it just the means of capturing the image that introduced those problems?

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#11 Post by Faux Hulot » Mon Nov 15, 2004 7:53 pm

Jun-Dai wrote:I just looked at the Pioneer/Criterion shootout on dvd beaver for A Woman Under the Influence. Is the Criterion transfer really that bad? There seems to be a lot of detail lost in the hyper-contrastiness, and a tremendous amount of digital artifacting. Or was it just the means of capturing the image that introduced those problems?
I'm generally very impressed with the quality of the set (Bookie in particular has never looked better, and I've seen it projected many times) but I'm personally not so pleased with the image quality of Criterion's Woman transfer. I've always loved the softer look of the film, and in Carney's book he claims Cassavetes wanted "muted" colors. He quotes the director:
"I have never liked 'metallic' colors, the 'hard' picture, even when this was fashionable. It doesn't leave anything to the imagination, there are no secrets. People expect beautiful effects. Some people like a slick, metallic look. I can watch a black-and-white film that's rough and grainy. I can feel more belief in that film. I made a slop print of A Woman Under The Influence in black and white, but after seeing it I realized there were certain values greater in the color print."
I'm also not convinced that the cropping in the framings was appropriate for all the films in the box. One the one hand I appreciate seeing Woman sans the light stand in the bedroom scene for a change, but I've become so accustomed to the 1:33 framing over the years that 1.85:1 feels cramped. A few compositions in Opening Night seem cut too closely as well. Those may just be subjective however, or a matter of familarity; with Faces it just seems wrong. The film was shot on 16mm which has a native 1.33:1 ratio, and even with the 35mm blowup in mind down the road, I find it hard to imagine that everyone who shot it was composing for 1.66:1. Frustrating to have it look so marvelous, but also seem artifically truncated.

analoguezombie

#12 Post by analoguezombie » Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:11 pm

I've got the Anchor Bay edition of Minnie and Moskowitz which has been OOP for some time now. I wish Criterion would snazz up that dvd with a shiny new print and what nots. Though the disc does have a commentary with Seymour Cassel and Gena Rowlands.

Who knows, may be we will see more Criterion Cassavetes in 2005. The critical praise for this box set has been overwhelming with many sources calling it the best dvd release ever. If that translates into financial success we're bound to see more Cassavetes dvds whether they're Criterion or not.

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#13 Post by manicsounds » Fri Nov 19, 2004 2:44 am

On the "Making Of Faces" documentary, they mention the original screening of "Faces" in Toronto was 3 hours and 30 minutes long.

Where is THIS version? Lost forever?

analoguezombie

#14 Post by analoguezombie » Fri Nov 19, 2004 10:23 am

manicsounds wrote:On the "Making Of Faces" documentary, they mention the original screening of "Faces" in Toronto was 3 hours and 30 minutes long.

Where is THIS version? Lost forever?
actually no, it's been found. It was discovered at a New York City Subway SYstem lost and found sale. Some guy bought it not knowing what it was and it sat in his attic for quite some time. It's now come to light, but the holders of the Cassavetes estate refuse to let it be released.

It's actually quite an interesting story which i cannot really recall right now. It was discovered by a long time Cassavetes biographer and archivist whose name escapes me as well. He has a website where he talks about he fight to get this long cut released, someone help me out...
what's his name and what's the website. I'm pulling a total blank right now.

wait a sec.... I think I'm thinking of the long cut of Shadows........ haha

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#15 Post by manicsounds » Fri Nov 19, 2004 7:50 pm

Ray Carney is the one who has the only known surviving original cut of Shadows (not longer).
But as of the longer Faces..... anyone?

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#16 Post by Floyd » Fri Nov 19, 2004 10:52 pm

Minnie and Moskowitz is out of print? I was unaware of this.. I somehow spotted it at a very unorganized Hastings for $9.99 a week ago.. my first experience to a Cassavetes film and I did like it although from what I've read it is quite different than the films in this set. Hopefully can sometime get enough money wrangled up to afford the Five Films box. I'm glad I picked up Minnie and Moskowitz, if it is out of print that is probably a pretty good bargain.

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#17 Post by analoguezombie » Sat Nov 20, 2004 9:55 pm

Floyd wrote:Minnie and Moskowitz is out of print? I was unaware of this.. I somehow spotted it at a very unorganized Hastings for $9.99 a week ago.. my first experience to a Cassavetes film and I did like it although from what I've read it is quite different than the films in this set. Hopefully can sometime get enough money wrangled up to afford the Five Films box. I'm glad I picked up Minnie and Moskowitz, if it is out of print that is probably a pretty good bargain.
it is a good bargain. i got mine used for $11, and you can still find it here and there used. but new sealed copies are already popping up for $50 -$100.

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#18 Post by Doctor Sunshine » Sun Nov 21, 2004 3:36 am

manicsounds wrote:Ray Carney is the one who has the only known surviving original cut of Shadows (not longer).
But as of the longer Faces..... anyone?
The Faces story is here. The Shadows story is here. Seems Carney's relationship with Criterion has cooled considerably as indicated here. And in case you don't like clicking on heres you can find all of this and more at http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/

analoguezombie

#19 Post by analoguezombie » Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:08 pm

WOW! That Carney interview about Criterion is flabergasting. At elast give the guy credit for his work. I think we should start an e-mail and letter campaign to Criterion to have them acknowledge his contribution. After all, the box set we all enjoy, if we are to believe Carney, would not be a shadow (haha) of its present self without his input. And with the relationship so soured we aren't likely to see other Criterion Cassavetes releases , if there ever are any, of the same caliber.

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#20 Post by mingus » Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:18 pm

Doctor Sunshine wrote:Seems Carney's relationship with Criterion has cooled considerably ...
One more involvement in a future Cassavetes project and Ray Carney is ready to burn his own books on John by himself and erase the name from his memory. :wink:

Right now he is understandably bitter, but in my opinion also unfair in some of his statements (e.g.: Kiselyak, Rowlands) and blind for the benefit of all the latest releases (or rather not able and willing to at the moment).

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#21 Post by Andre Jurieu » Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:41 pm

analoguezombie wrote:WOW! That Carney interview about Criterion is flabergasting.
It's also only one side of the issue/story and Carney has never come off as the most rational human being when it comes to judging hi sown contributions to film scholarship in my opinion. He's dedicated and intelligent, but he's also one of the most aggravating personalities in film scholarship today.
analoguezombie wrote:I think we should start an e-mail and letter campaign to Criterion to have them acknowledge his contribution.
Probably still wouldn't alter all the legal issues involved since Rowlands controls the estate.

analoguezombie

#22 Post by analoguezombie » Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:53 pm

Andre Jurieu wrote:
analoguezombie wrote:WOW! That Carney interview about Criterion is flabergasting.
It's also only one side of the issue/story and Carney has never come off as the most rational human being when it comes to judging hi sown contributions to film scholarship in my opinion. He's dedicated and intelligent, but he's also one of the most aggravating personalities in film scholarship today.
analoguezombie wrote:I think we should start an e-mail and letter campaign to Criterion to have them acknowledge his contribution.
Probably still wouldn't alter all the legal issues involved since Rowlands controls the estate.
I definatelya cknowledge its one side of the story but if we are to eblieve any of it you have to accept that he was at least not credited for his work on the project and at most totally taken advantage of.

whether it makes a difference of not, its up to us, as fans of their output, to let Criterion know we respect the input of all those who work their projects, and think they should as well. Obviously I wouldn't rant to them about what they 'should do' I'll just say that if he did contribute tot he project he should be duely credited. It's not about them paying him off, and making friends with him to get him to do future work, its about them giving credit where its due. Integrity and all that nonsense. As a film fan i wnat the true, unedited stopry of the films and filmmakers I'm interested in. If Carney is someone who is engaged in fostering that I support him.

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#23 Post by Ashirg » Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:21 am

Basicly in the end it came down to either Criterion remove any mention of Carney in the set or not release set at all. I think they did the only option available to get those films out...

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#24 Post by Lino » Fri Nov 26, 2004 8:54 am

Having watched and read every single thing the Boxset contained, I just wanted to say this:

Thank you John Cassavetes for ruining cinema for me.

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#25 Post by Faux Hulot » Fri Nov 26, 2004 1:57 pm

Annie Mall wrote:Thank you John Cassavetes for ruining cinema for me.
Ha! I know how you feel, sister... saw my first one in 1990 (Woman) and the movies have not looked the same to me since.

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