My buddy, Mike, in Los Angeles sent this to me yesterday. It sounds like an amazing Cassavetes retrospective happening out there, headed up by the Cinefamily, who I think bought the Silent Movie Theater and own the excellent Cinefile Video.
I want to talk with you about John Cassavetes for a moment.
In preparation for our month-long retrospective, I’ve been steeping myself in the subject of Cassavetes: reading interviews and biographies, watching documentaries, and most of all, viewing his films. Like many a film lover before me, I’m going down the rabbit hole, because the more deeply you go down, the more rewarding it is. And I’m having a blast. In fact, it’s only by doing this that I’m just now I’m realizing what we’ve done here at Cinefamily, and why I think you should really participate this month: this retrospective is a kind of “master class” in the work of one of America's most fascinating directors.
To start with, I think Cassavetes himself would appreciate my honesty when I say I’ve always had mixed feelings about his work before now; there are scenes and moments that destroy me (in a good way), and other moments that feel false, bombastic, or just seemed sloppy. I had trouble grasping the films as a whole, and long chunks would consequently bore me as I floated adrift on the sea of emotion, until some undeniably explosively awesome moment would happen. But the films always haunted me. What I see now is how his films improve over repeated viewings -- from seeing them consecutively, getting on his wavelength, and learning to speak his language. These films are like people, interesting and complicated people. You don’t always understand them at first, but as you get to know them, all of their quirks make more and more sense. They reveal themselves.
Rewatching his films, I often have an epiphanous moment when the code cracks, and suddenly the whole crazy experience falls into place. I immediately want to see the whole movie again, or at least revisit it in my mind, now that I know how it's all working. His films are like relatives; my feelings towards them change as I get older, and as I understand them better. I may still hate the way my mother screams like she’s witnessed a murder just because she drops something in the kitchen, but more and more it becomes inextricably interwoven with my deeper understanding of who she is, and why I love her.
If I had to sum up one thing I’ve gotten out of all this, it’s a knowledge of the incredible focus Cassavetes had. Truffaut once said that all great directors must sacrifice some aspect of filmmaking to achieve something brilliant -- in essence, the bedsheet never covers the whole bed. And no one has worked harder to go as deep as possible exploring the complexity of human interrelationships than Cassavetes, and while he did love other aspects of film, he would give up anything -- the framing, the editing, the continuity, the smoothness of the story, paradoxically even his own understanding of the characters -- to reach a certain ecstatic emotional depth. He wanted you to feel as intensely and thoughtfully about his films as you did about your own life, and sometimes (perhaps by definition all the time) that means you can’t fully understand them.
As I said before, here’s your chance to have a “masters class” in John Cassavetes. We’re showing not just every film he directed, but films he starred in, his rare television work, and even films made with people he just worked closely with -- 'cause we know what it’s like when you get obsessed: everything and everyone he touched takes on a certain interest. We’ve got restored prints from UCLA, rare trailers, and lectures. We’ve got sidebar tributes to Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel and Gena Rowlands -- all appearing in person -- where we’ll tour through their own careers as actors. We’ve rounded up virtually every guest that could be had. This is the best chance you’ll ever have to do this right.
This series is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So get a membership -- tax-deductible, of course! By getting one, you'll help us do this more often (it ain’t cheap!), and you get in FREE to every show. That’s worth a year’s membership right there! Plus, The Criterion Collection has been kind and generous enough to donate 5 of their incredible, extra-laden Cassavetes box sets for us to give away to new members. Anyone who gets an annual “black card” membership in from now until March 16th, 11:59PM, is in a raffle to receive one of them!
The whole shebang starts tomorrow with Shadows, screened from a gorgeous restored 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film &Television Archive. After the film, join us for a conversation with its star, Lelia Goldoni, the memorably gorgeous face turned on its side in the film's signature image. She’s still gorgeous, charming, and as one of the last remaining members of the Shadows cast, an important link to one of the most historically significant films of the 20th century (virtually the first truly successful independent film).
P.S. I know we’re not showing Big Trouble (a film Cassavetes practically disowned). But, if we get 10 new membership by Friday at midnight, I promise we'll book it.
P.P.S. Gary Oldman is doing the Q&A with Ben Gazzara on SUNDAY, at the start of the triple feature! Holy guacamole!
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