Under the Influence of Cassavetes

The film studies course I’m taking alternates each week between directors Cassavetes and Kubrick. I began the class knowing nothing about either and since then, I have to admit, I’ve come to like Kubrick better because his films are easier to watch. If I have learned anything from this course so far, it is that accessibility is short supply from Cassavetes.

I have however enjoyed reading his biography by Marshall Fine. It’s refreshing to learn about someone so self-assured about his work. Sometimes (often), he comes across as blatantly arrogant, but there are so many anecdotes that make him incredibly endearing. For instance, this one of Cassavetes and critic Pauline Kael (who had no love for the director’s films):

Cassel recalled a taxi ride to a bar after a screening that he had been to with Cassavetes and Kael. Kael was talking about the film they’d just seen and Cassavetes looked at her with a suspicious grin.

“Pauline, you don’t know what you’re saying,” he said. Before she knew what was happening, he reached down and snatched the shoes off her feet. Even as she squawked in protest, Cassavetes hurled the shoes out the taxi window… (Page 235)

Cassavetes life-long relationship with Gena Rowlands is also incredibly touching. This week’s film was A Woman Under the Influence. It is my favorite film so far and Rowlands is absolutely stellar.

[on the exuberant reception of the film in New York] “To hear 1,800 people clapping their hands in unison is glorious,” she said. “I was so thrilled that I turned around to John — but he wasn’t there. And I knew what he had done. He wanted it to be my moment. My moment entirely.” (Page 299)

Lastly, I’m taking on The Daily Post for the days I post.

Today’s prompt is: What’s the one thing you hope other people never say about you?

Answer: That I am unable to do something (particularly if I saw I will). (Probably why I admire Cassavetes)


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