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John Cassavetes, Happy Birthday!

09 December 2012 | Cinema Masters, Features | by David Zou

Today is American independent film pioneer John Cassavetes‘ birthday, I want to dedicate this post to one of the most fearless and passionate directors I’ve ever known.

 

John Cassavetes

 

“Most people don’t know what they want or feel. And for everyone, myself included, It’s very difficult to say what you mean when what you mean is painful. The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to… As an artist, I feel that we must try many things – but above all, we must dare to fail. You must have the courage to be bad – to be willing to risk everything to really express it all.”

– John Cassavetes

 

“John Cassavetes was totally fearless, almost unnaturally so. I never saw him depressed, I saw him angry, which they say is the other side of depression, but he was very sure and not particularly influenced by anything anybody said. Our pictures made people feel very uncomfortable much of the time. The characters were very emotionally exposed and people weren’t used to it. Everything was not spelled out. The old tradition was that you prepared the audience but with our films you had to just sit there and hold on to your seats. Some people like that and some don’t.”

– Gena Rowlands

 

“When I hear the term ‘independent filmmaker,’ I immediately think of John Cassavetes. He was the most independent of them all. For me, he was and still is a guide and teacher. Without his support and advice, I don’t know what would have become of me as a filmmaker. The question, ‘What is an independent filmmaker?’ has nothing to do with being inside or outside of the industry or whether you live in New York or Los Angeles. It’s about determination and strength, having the passion to say something that’s so strong that no one or nothing can stop you. Whenever I meet a young director who is looking for guidance and advice, I tell him or her to look to the example of John Cassavetes, a source of the greatest strength. John made it possible for me to think that you could actually make a movie—which is crazy, because it’s an enormous endeavor, and you only realize how enormous when you’re doing it. But by then it’s too late.

Nothing could have stopped Cassavetes except God, and He eventually did. John died much too soon, but his films and his example are still very much alive. He once said, ‘You can’t be afraid of anyone or anything if you want to make a movie.’ It’s that simple. You have to be as tough as he was. He was a force of nature.”

– Martin Scorsese

 

5 John Cassavetes movies you must see:

Shadows (1959)

shadows

 

Faces (1968)

faces

 

A Woman Under The Influence (1974)

A Woman Under The Influence

 

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (1976)

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie

 

Opening Night (1977)

opening night

 

Criterion released a sensational John Cassavetes package,which includes all the five movies above.

Get John Cassavetes: Five Films (Shadows / Faces / A Woman Under the Influence / The Killing of a Chinese Bookie / Opening Night ) (The Criterion Collection)

 

 

 


   

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  • John Cassavetes is a filmmaker whose work I had never seen before yet that will change next year when I will be watching some of his films next year including A Woman Under the Influence which is part of my 2013 Blind Spot list.

    • I highly recommend John Cassavetes’s works,for the improvisational performance and documentary-style filmmaking in his movies,very raw and unique stuff.

  • A Woman Under The Influence contains the finest female acting performance I’ve ever seen, it just kills me. I absolutely adore the work of Cassavetes. Great tribute to a great filmmaker!

    • Thanks,Alex.I agree with you that Gena Rowlands’ performance in A Woman Under The Influence is a top competitor for the greatest female performance in the 20th century,and I do think she can only act like that in a Cassavetes film.