Plot synopsis from allmovie.com
After his pioneering independent film Shadows (1960), actor/writer/director John Cassavetes made his major studio directorial debut with this gritty, low-key drama about jazz musicians. Bobby Darin plays John “Ghost” Walefield, a pianist who scuffles from gig to gig with his band, trying to keep body and soul together without betraying his muse. Ghost’s agent Benny (Everett Chambers) introduces him to Jess (Stella Stevens), a would-be singer who looks beautiful, even though her voice is fair at best. Ghost falls hard for her and agrees to put her in the band, though it’s hard to say if he believes in her musical talent or just wants her companionship. Ghost and his band score a record deal thanks to Jess’ presence, but after a humiliating fight in a pool hall and Ghost’s discovery that Jess occasionally turns tricks to pay the rent, he puts his integrity up for sale, fires his band, and starts spending his time with a rich woman who likes to hang out with musicians — and is willing to pay for the privilege. A number of real-life jazz greats appear onscreen and on the soundtrack, including Slim Gaillard, Benny Carter, and Shelly Manne; the role of Ghost was originally written for Montgomery Clift, who was forced to back out at the last minute, leading to Bobby Darin’s casting. — Mark Deming Continue reading
‘A Woman Under Influence’ Stars Gena Rowlands as Frenetic Wife:The Cast
When a husband and wife need to keep saying how much they love each other, something’s apt to be awfully wrong. That nervous repetition is one of the danger signals in John Cassavetes’s “A Woman Under the Influence,” and it contains all the warning urgency of a siren. The movie played on Saturday at the New York Film Festival.
Throughout, the film dwells on the abrasions of daily living, centered in the domestic world where each individual grinds on the other’s nerves. Gena Rowlands plays a woman adrift. Her manic, likable, hard-hat husband (Peter Falk) quite hysterically keeps assuring her that everything’s fine. Meanwhile, she looks to him for her identity, asking him to tell her “what” to be, insisting that she’ll “be anything” he wants. Later, he punctuates a horrendous uproar by shouting “Just be yourself!” But she hardly has a self–beyond the bundle of symptoms that make up her hectic public persona.
Love Streams is at once a culmination of the director’s obsessions and his most atypical film. It’s a movie that gives up its mysteries slowly—flirting with theatricality, inserting dream sequences, concluding on a brazenly surreal enigma. Cassavetes stars as Robert Harmon, a tough-guy novelist with unorthodox research methods. Rowlands, magnificent as ever, is Robert’s sister, Sarah Lawson, a divorcée who turns up at his doorstep with two taxis full of luggage and an entire barnyard menagerie. An emotional live wire and by default a social rebel, the embarrassingly demonstrative Sarah is kindred spirit to A Woman Under the Influence’s unhinged housewife Mabel Longhetti and Opening Night’s aging stage star Myrtle Gordon: All are women with a raw-nerved, overwhelming capacity and need for love. The enormously moving interplay between Cassavetes and Rowlands gets at the heart of the performative spectacle unique to his films: an interaction beyond words and gestures, predicated on the invention of a shared language so hyperbolic and specific and almost inexplicable it must be love. Indeed, the movie—as its title suggests—performs an anatomy of its subject. More explicitly metaphysical than the other great Cassavetes films, it nonetheless shares their view of love as a way of life and a form of madness. Continue reading
A troubled production history notwithstanding, BIG TROUBLE remains a lighthearted updating of the classic film noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Alan Arkin stars as Leonard Hoffman, an insurance salesman and father of triplets. When it becomes apparent that his dream of sending his three sons to Yale is financially impossible, opportunity presents itself in the form of Blanche (Beverly D’Angelo), sexy wife of Steve Rickey (Peter Falk), who convinces Leonard to trick her husband into signing an obscure life insurance plan that promises a huge payoff if he dies while falling from a train. After the mission is seemingly accomplished, Steve reappears, confusing matters, and thereby sending Leonard’s life into an official tailspin. Director John Cassavetes is credited as the director of BIG TROUBLE; he actually stepped in as a replacement. Although the film is therefore not a unique Cassavetes document, it manages to breeze along, guided by the performances of Falk (a Cassavetes standby) and Arkin, stars of 1979’s THE IN-LAWS. – Marshall Fine Continue reading
This is a super-rare look behind the scenes of Cassavetes’ first ‘big budget’ film, Husbands. It depicts several scenes which never made it into the final film, and a few that did. Also great is to watch Cassavetes working out scenes with Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara, sitting around a table smoking, brainstorming, joking, and singing – just like Archie Gus and Harry!
Picture quality isn’t tops, being this was taken from a VHS copy from a 16mm print that’s seen better days, and it has a timecode window burned in at the bottom left, but everything is visible that counts. Continue reading
PBS documentary on John Cassavestes featuring comments from Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, as well as Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara. Continue reading
This is a raw-footage version of a group interview for some unspecified TV station at a restaurant from 1978 with Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassell and Paul Stewart on the occasion of Opening Night being released. It starts out with some general career-spanning questions to Cassavetes and then eventually gets into Opening Night with Cassavetes exhorting people to go see it in his own inimitable way. Mostly we hear from Cassavetes, Rowlands, Gazzara and Paul Stewart, with just a few reactions from Seymour Cassell who is sitting by listening and smoking. Continue reading