Live Poll: Tribute to John Cassavetes (1929-1989)

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  • Updated 2 months ago
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For a career that was conducted under the sign of 9, 2019 is a triple milestone years. 

90 years ago on December 1929, the legendary actor/writer and filmmaker John Cassavetes, one of the eight thespians to be nominated in these three categories, was born in New York City, to Greek-American parents.

30 years later, in 1959, his directorial debut Shadows (1958) was released in US theaters, making him the figurehead of independent cinema and starting the myth that his movies were all improvised.

And on February 1989, the legend died of cirrhosis leaving a unique legacy, and an inspiration to young film-makers who lack resources but not creativity, with enough guts, vision and talent to carry it to the screen without ever compromising their personal truths.

Truth indeed, "vérité" in French, Cassavetes' films paradoxically embody the very aspect that differentiate between movies and reality: the absence of archetypes, no plot, no archetypes, his films are a tribute to the unpredictability of both life and humanity and the futility of translating them into plot device.

The so-called improvisation were only audaciously shot unsettling moments highlight the insecurity of the protagonists and their incapacity to control their emotions, despite being lucid about their need, a way to tame spontaneity with the whip of a clever writing.

The key in Cassavetes' characters is that they don't tell a story, but the slices of their lives echo the eternal duality of what we are and what we want to be, our social beings and emotional ones, and maybe the source of happiness is to reconcile one to another.

That's the greatest contribution of John Cassavetes and his clique (Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel and Gena Rowlands), being a gap between our repressed emotions and our true beings... and also paving the road to the indies and influencing directors such as Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson.

So which of these movies directed by John Cassavetes* is your favorite? (or would you most like to discover?)

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls045452780/

https://www.imdb.com/poll/0emYiu9KN2o/

I decided not to include Big Trouble (1986) for many reasons: the film was made for money and was immediately dismissed by Cassavetes himself, Love Streams (1984) is often regarded as his real swan-song. Finally, I replaced it with Mikey and Nicky (1976), a film that is so close to the usual style of Cassavetes it could be part of his own body of work and his pairing with Peter Falk is just too irresistible. So the decision may sound arbitrary but what would be a Cassavetes poll without a little improvisation?
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ElMo

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Posted 3 months ago

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Gitte Løyche

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I loved ''Husbands'!
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ElMo

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Kyle Perez

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Regrettably, I haven't seen ANY of this legend's films yet; have several on the watchlist though - I know, just from you, how impactful they are.
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ElMo

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Well, Mikey and Nicky is available on Youtube (with Turkish subtitles) a true New Hollywood gem a connaisseur like you would appreciate, like a French critic said, if Elaine May had the career of Scorsese, the film would have been as highly regarded as a masterpiece of the same year; Taxi Driver. A lasting and successful career can do a lot of good with the "little" earlier films I kind of agree with what he said. Anyone it's not a Cassavetes' film but it has the style and both Cassavetes and Falk have great chemistry. A tough, rough, cynical and unconventional mob picture.
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Richard Shepherd

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I haven't seen any of his films either, I must admit until reading this post I wasn't even aware of who he was (and considering what I do for a living I should know better!) - but you live and learn - now I can use this thread to find some movies of his to watch :)
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Jeorj Euler

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I'm afraid that Marvin & Tige, The Fury, Rosemary's Baby and The Dirty Dozen are only movies of John Cassavetes with which I'm familiar.
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ElMo

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I think it's very telling about the lack of publicity this man gets compared to other directors when even movie fans aren't familiar with his directing work... this is not a negative comment of course, just an observation. Even when you look at the Top 250, every 'important' film-maker is represented at least once, but Cassavetes doesn't have a single film there.

The problem is that you can't ignore the man's legacy, he didn't want to make movies to make money, he wanted to make money to make movies... unlike Godard, he wasn't a guy full of theories or ideas about cinema, he didn't try to reinvent the wheel, he was just hungry, he wanted to make films and he wanted his film to be made his way, that was the point, maybe he was narcissistic enough to believe that his vision was worth to be put on screen but you can't be independent if you don't trust yourself... he literally invented independent film-making as a creative field and as an attitude.

And invented a style that influenced many other directors who ended up being more famous than he was, his movies were brutal, dark, silly, unpredictable, realistic, awkward, hell they were even imperfect but he didn't care, he wanted to capture the intensity of the moment and let the camera rolling after given the actors a script and a few guidelines... it was the perfect combo of improvisation and preparation, not improvisation all alone.. 

I discovered his work 11 years ago, and the first film he made was A Woman Under the Influence, I had never seen a movie like that before, I never thought I could be thrilled by a family drama that doesn't involve any shooting or killing. Then it was Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, every film he made was an experience... not saying they're all great, but even in their flaws, they're fascinating... some movies are great in a savorless and predictable way, his films are great because they don't even try...

Anyway, Influence is the perfect film to discover him and another sad thing about never having seen any Cassavetes' film is to have never watched one of the greatest female performances of all time. Hell, even the first Youtube comment says the same thing, can't believe the film is there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RINU1ngwtQc
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albstein

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Cassavetes may not be as dry and theoretical as Godard but it can be hard to get into him. The first time I saw his movies, they confused the hell out of me although they sure made an impact. And you gotta admire the guy for being a pioneer of cinema.
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Nikolay Yeriomin (Mykola Yeromin), Champion

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I'd say that Godard is all over the place in the best way possible: he can be as dry and theoretical as he is frantic and insane at times. It's probably a matter of personal preference what to think of as his best, I guess... 

I've got to admit I've seen significantly less Cassavetes then Godard and that is something to consider while revising my "to watch list" (which is handwritten and in the notebook). 
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albstein

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Yeah you're right, at least the early Godards are more frantic and have a direct appeal. But at some point it feels as if you need to have studied 6 semesters of philosphy, sociology, and theory of art or whatever to relate to it in any way, lol. Someone should tell him to do it like Pasolini with Salò, who actually gave the audience a recommended reading list during the opening credits.
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ElMo

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Oh I think it would be fair to call him a polarizing director but a no less fair assumption is that you can hate one of his movies or don't "get them" and still appreciate a few others he made. Ebert put Faces, Minnie & Moskowitz, Influence and Love Streams in his annual Top 10 but he didn't like Husbands, Siskel put Husbands in his Top 10. 

And his films were indeed confusing, and I'm not saying they can all get away with it in the name of cinema-vérité, but I take the confusion as a necessary evil given the man's creative philosophy, they're as confusing as Kubrick's 2001 is slow, you can't direct a contemplative or meditative film like a Kung-fu movie, and you can't convey the unpredictability and inconstancy of human relationships in a structured and smooth way. Sometimes, the style's gotta serve the purpose.

Not being the devil's advocate here, I agree sometimes you feel like his films are acting like a jerk with the viewer but yeah, you've gotta admire the man's legacy. He makes an interesting point here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNMYmMDGZZ0
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ElMo

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Well, I wrote this about Godard, just check the first paragraphs, the rest is about the film itself...
https://www.imdb.com/review/rw3785036/?ref_=tt_urv
I can't say it was a love at first sight with Godard, and I just loved what Bergman said about him, for all his creativity, I found his films to be empty shells without anything substantial to say, other than "I want to make a new cinema", I would say Cassavetes is a Godard who at least tells stories
That said, I didn't watch many Godard movies, the two I first saw discouraged me but I'd probably rent Bande à Part if I find it.
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albstein

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Not to make it sound negative, there's a reason I return to Influence and Chinese Bookie every once in a while and see it a bit differently. Some movies you need to 'work' to like but they're worth it.

What Cassavetes says reminds me of a Roger Ebert interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK_hQ4sHNeI&t=1m28s

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ElMo

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That's why I always read his reviews, this guy got everything. And he's right, people would rather stay in the comfort of their own averageness than dare to discover something a bit more challenging.

This is why I tend to be frustrated when the news I read are all about the same types of movies (Marvel/MCU/DC/ Superheroes/Supervillains), the same remakes and reboots, the same popular actors and directors, I'm not saying everything that's done today consecrates the death of creativity and imagination, but the weight of "unoriginal" movies made is just too overwhelming to spot the little gems made by unknown directors.
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albstein

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We're at a point when people treat blockbusters as the ultimate benchmark of movies. If a superhero movie deviates just a wee little bit from the formula, it's "daring". If a superhero movie features a strong female characters for a change, it's "feminist". If an Avengers movie manages to assemble most of the famous stars and characters, then who cares if the movie has decent storytelling, interesting characterizations, actually funny dialogue, or well-made action sequences?

It's as if there were no Bette Davis, no Katharine Hepburn, no Sigourney Weaver or any of the other strong women of cinema before Wonder Woman was released (and they were far more than strong, they were nuanced, enigmatic, intelligent, and inscrutable). It's as if there had been no filmmakers like Spike Lee or John Singleton before Black Panther. It's as if there had been no Bullitt, no Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan before the "action" scenes in the MCU. And it's as if there had been no directors like John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven, who found clever ways to make genre movies and get across socially relevant messages, without being on the nose.

As blockbusters become larger and larger, we expect less and less of cinema in general.
(Edited)
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ElMo

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Exactly. And you know what, the real problem is that we don't even have critics anymore like Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Bosley Crowther etc.

Any Youtuber, any community spokesperson, any "influential" freelance journalist or broadcaster can do the job, destroying a decent movie or saying about an average blockbuster that there's something 'relevant' about it, that it's a milestone or a stone in the pond of Hollywood's conservatism and nothing about the film by itself, opinions have been taken out from us but I think viewers are starting to realize it. 

I'm not dismissing the blockbuster genre, I just love what Cassavetes said here, when asked about ET:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbjj2xYU-IU
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albstein

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You have to dig deep to find exceptional critics nowadays. We have a little star on German Youtube (well, "star" is too much) who is an academic lecturer and quotes one or two philosophical books in each of his reviews, lol. He's been called pretentious and it's kinda true but I still like him most of the time.

Have you heard of Jonathan Rosenbaum? I recently discovered him and found some of his reviews quite interesting. There are also instances when Rosenbaum refers to Ebert's reviews and expands on them or explains something Ebert apparently didn't get.
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ElMo

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I'm sorry, I just caught up that last post... I'll check some Rosenbaum's review, you should check Bowsley Crowther's reviews from the NYTimes review, he reviewed every film from the early 40s to Bonnie and Clyde (a movie he despised) he's more academic than Kael and Ebert, but I like his prose :)
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albstein

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Yeah, Bosley Crowther is the go-to guy for all old (pre 1960) movies.
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rubyfruit76, Champion

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My favorites are 'A Woman Under the Influence' and 'Shadows,' although 'The Killing of a Chinese Bookie' was the first Cassavetes film I saw so has some pull, as well. I'd like to see the last five listed, none of which I've seen so far. 
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Peter, Champion

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"on December 1929"
"on February 1989"

should be "in"
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ElMo

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Fixed it :)
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Peter, Champion

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It turns out your description is too long for the poll to go live. I'm not sure how much you need to remove, but people can read it here in the thread instead.
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ElMo

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I cut the body :)
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Dan Dassow, Champion

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Ed Jones (XLIX)

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Congrats!
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Dan Dassow, Champion

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Congratulations ElMaruecan82 on your 571st live poll! As of 29-May-2019 9:11 PM Pacific your polls have 1,078,788 or more votes, for an average of 1,889 votes per poll.

Tribute to John Cassavetes (1929-1989)
7773rd Live Poll: https://www.imdb.com/poll/0emYiu9KN2o/
Seen:
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