|Gena Rowlands places "hooker with a heart of gold" Jeannie Rapp in John Cassavetes Faces (1968)|
d. John Cassavetes
Criterion Collection #252
Part of John Cassavetes: Five Films
Criterion Collection #250
Is it embarrassing for me to confess that this is the first Cassavetes movie I've EVER watched? It can't be that bad, because I've never had him come up in a conversation despite maybe two decades plus in being casually interested in film and independent film. I'm sure I could have bluffed my way through a five minute conversation, but before I watched Faces it would have been a conversation based on my utter lack of experience actually watching one of his films.
If you've watched the films of the French New Wave and have a passing familiarity with Bergman and the Italian Neo Realist, you will know where Cassavetes is coming from. Faces reminded me of a combination of early Godard and Bergman, made by an American film maker with a desire to bring a stylized realism to American audiences.
Cassavetes is known as being a true pioneer for independent film in America, though mostly that related to him obtaining release and distribution for his own films. He is possibly the first American film director to consciously embrace "auteuerism" while focusing outside the "hollywood" system of production and distribution of American film.
Faces is probably more of historical interest at this point, though the "searing" portrait of a decaying marriage is certainly intense by the standards of AMERICAN film of the time- on the French New Wave/Bergman/Italian Neo Realism scale it scores about a 6 out of 10 on the emotional intensity scale.
One feature of Faces that absolutely fascinated me was Cassavetes repeated use of drunk conversations. The man is a virtuoso when it comes to filming drunk people rambling- giving those scenes unusual intensity. Maybe 50-75 percent of the run time of Faces is people drunkenly talking/arguing. Its a kind of emotional intensity that still exists in the work of well known contemporary film makers- I'm thinking of David O. Russell, specifically. If you've seen Bradley Cooper berating Louis CK in American Hustle you can get a sense of where Faces is coming from, only less entertaining and minimal plot, with black and white, high contrast film.