April 26, 2009

"Terrible! Unreal! No passion!"

Let's watch a little of "Husbands":



"You're terrible because you want to be terrible."

That's Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes, and Peter Falk.

Do you like these John Cassavetes movies? Now, or just back in the 70s?

40 comments:

m00se said...

I'm much too shallow for Cassavettes. I am angry enough though.

Mamet's more my speed. Besides - the 70's sucked ass...

Roger Sweeny said...

The worst movie I ever saw was his "Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)." Not SciFi channel original movie bad, where you know it will be cheesy and you accept it, but trying to be good bad. The sort of thing that gives "art" a bad name.

Buggy said...

Horrible. Too much yelling. Too dark. If I wanted that I would have stayed married.

EDH said...

Didn't Gazzara have that exact same line years later in Roadhouse?

Gazzara: Hey, DaIton. Have a Bloody Mary? Some breakfast?

Swayze: No, thank you.

Gazzara: Suit yourseIf.

[To his young mistress with a blackeye doing arobics to electronic disco music.]

Will you shut that shit off?!
- "(music stops)" -

I can't Iisten to that crap. It has no heart![Swayze looks at an old picture.]

Gazzara: My grandfather.

Swayze: Looks like an important man.

Gazzara: He was an asshole.

Jason (the commenter) said...

If they'd do that with Adam Lambert maybe he'd become good enough to have a career.

peter hoh said...

Now we know what happened when Susan Boyle first tried to make it in the music business.

Palladian said...

If the Cassavettes films had been shot beautifully and precisely, they would have worked better, contrasting the "rawness" of the writing and performances with a more objective camera. For me, the cinéma vérité bad camerawork and murky lighting coupled with the chaotic quasi-improvisational feel of the script and performances just makes it feel like too much of a mess.

Lem said...

The improv is for her to continue singing it the same way no matter what anybody says.

Because what they say to her, what they make up, is what matters, not the singing, not her.

It's like this torture embroglio.

Torture is what we say it is Now.. Not before, Now.

Is what we say now the only thing that matters and have we allways been this way?

Lem said...

Of course out of what they say to her, the mess may come a "genuine" reaction.

I think thats what Cassavetes may have been striving for.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

That scene felt cruel even when it was new. Self-consciously cruel or not? And very drawn-out.

I think it's a parable of the torturing of actors by directors and acting teachers.

Another favorite scene: Peter Falk and the wizened, heavily made-up, wobbly-jawed old lady who says, "You interest me...I'm very rich...Do you want girls? I can give you girls. Do you want boys? I can give you boys." I wonder if it's still funny enough to quote for years afterward. (Apparently it is.)

"Killng of a Chinese Bookie" is the only movie that's ever physically given me a headache.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard, I was going to put that scene up, but the video I found is out of sync:

hereThere's something so bizarre about that actress. So hilarious.

kentuckyliz said...

I watched about 30 seconds and had to stop. Bleh.

Palladian said...

Here Althouse, I synchronized the audio in that scene. I don't like the movie very much but that scene is terrific. What a face that actress has, like it's made of latex, and that gaping mouth. Watch her lip movements. Very, very odd, and compelling.

rhhardin said...

When I watch such stuff, my first impression is always that they're actors.

Then that it's awfully overplayed.

Then who in the hell is the audience for it.

I mean, I know who, but why they watch is the mystery. It looks too actorish and too overplayed to get into.

Revenant said...

Do you like these John Cassavetes movies? Now, or just back in the 70s?

I wanted to, but I never have.

I admire his determination, and how he managed and arranged his career. I admire the role he played in establishing independent film. But, sadly, I don't actually like his movies.

John Burgess said...

Seeing the 'Cassavetes' name attached to a film--Nick or John--is quite enough to keep me away from it.

If I want dark and gloomy, I'll go Swedish.

Trooper York said...

Hey he was great in the Dirty Dozen.

Not as good as Telly or Lee Marvin but still pretty good.

blake said...

Sorry, wrong generation.

Although John was marvelously awful in Incubus.

Now, Nick Cassavetes? Actually, no, not a big fan of The Notebook. Though I did like his earlier acting work in such classics as Assault of Killer Bimbos.

Trooper York said...

That's the problem with movies today, not enough "Dirty Dozens" or "Great Escapes" or "Maginifcent Sevens" and too many frat house dick comedies.

traditionalguy said...

The movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf was at least about screwed up relationships. This load of crap is nothing but a Sadist's daydream, and has no redeeming social value.

BJM said...

I occasionally watch "Faces" and "A Woman Under The Influence", but "Husbands" never grabbed me.

However, Paul Mazurzky's 1982 " Tempest" is one of my fav Cassavetes roles even though critics panned it. Raul Julia's Caliban to Cassavetes Prospero was brilliant casting.

blake said...

Tempest had its moments, but I thought it sort of drifted.

Trooper York said...

Tempest Bledsoe had her moments, but I thought she sort of became a drifter.

Trooper York said...

I think she has been killing hobos.

EDH said...

"This next song I wrote after I killed a drifter to get an erection."

- Neil Diamond (as portrayed by Will Farrell).

Buggy said...

I thought the movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was a home movie.

William said...

At the time, they were praised for the naturalism of their acting. Now they look like they od'd on Strasberg and were vomiting Brando.....Cassavetes was good in Rosemary's Baby. He looked like the kind of guy who would sell his wife to land a featured role in a soap opera. After Columbo, it's hard to accept Peter Falk as a dark, menacing figure.

Will Cate said...

I was required to watch this movie for a film class in college (about 1981, I think). My buddy & I snuck out to smoke a joint in the middle. It didn't make it any better.

Trooper York said...

To be fair he was pretty good in "The Fury."

blake said...

You baitin' me, Troop?

"The Fury" indeed.

The Crack Emcee said...

Cassavetes was a genius. He got into people and how they really treat one another. The perfect antidote to all the bullshit they blather about love, and pride and values. Look at the comments so far: Those are NOT the comments for an average film or filmmaker. He was cutting through, and most people recognize it, whether they like it or not.

Movies today are about cultural indoctrination - not acting or filmmaking.

rcocean said...

Tried to watch 'The Killing of a Chinese Bookie' but fell asleep.

BTW, Falk played dark menacing figures for years before Columbo. He was one scary gangster in "Murder Inc."

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

Cassavetes was a genius. He got into people and how they really treat one another. The perfect antidote to all the bullshit they blather about love, and pride and values.
Even if true, why spend 2 hours watching "how people really treat one another'? Sounds rather grim.

John Burgess said...

Crack Emmcee: You might want to cut down on your course of film studies. They've obviously gone to your head. I realize that only the true artist understands pain, but I also understand that the true artist is fuller of self-confirmatory bullshit than ordinary mortals.

Penny said...

Well, I missed this one, but I did see Mash, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock and Five Easy Pieces which also came out in 1970. It was a hippie thing, and Cassavetes movies just didn't fit the mood of the time, at least in my circle.

The Crack Emcee said...

rcocean,



"Why spend 2 hours watching 'how people really treat one another'? Sounds rather grim."
People are grim. And maturity says you don't avoid things just because they're difficult. As a matter of fact, when it comes to what's important, the hardest ones are usually "grim" in nature and should be endured to make their lessons plain - and Cassavettes was, definitely, a mature filmmaker dealing with mature subjects. In this age of immaturity, where so many are miserable but determined to force some fake NewAge version of "HAPPINESS" on everyone, I found a lot of joy in seeing what made them that way. There are always lots of "Aha!" moments in Cassavettes' films.

John Burgess,

"Crack Emcee: You might want to cut down on your course of film studies. They've obviously gone to your head. I realize that only the true artist understands pain, but I also understand that the true artist is fuller of self-confirmatory bullshit than ordinary mortals."
So what's your point? That artists can be flawed? Big whoop. Tell me something I don't know - at least artists confront those flaws. Sometimes, I'd rather watch art that can tell me about that than some bullshit that covers it up and allows us to think it's not there.

BTW, I never took a course in film studies; I just like movies, and Cassavettes' made me straighten up and pay attention in a way I hadn't before. You may not get how it feels (I'm not judging but just saying) to come out of the ghetto and discover the world as it is: how this kind of stuff - the important stuff - is so readily avoided, when it makes up a large part of what, I think, should be taken on - not turned away from. If more people avoided all the magical realism we're bombarded with, they'd probably be more apt to try telling the truth more and stop with the "I believe" nonsense that passes for their reality until a Cassavettes shows up.

Hell, the man made his films for a reason: He was meeting a need, and taking on subjects ("Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown") that other supposedly "serious" filmmakers were not.

Nichevo said...

He was good as Johnny North in The Killers. Of course that had Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson in it, not to mention the immortal Clu Gulager (?) AND Ronald Reagan (!) plus little treats like Claude Akins (Atkins? if I weren't so lazy I'd check) and Norman Fell.

Ah, the 60s. One word: Bullitt.

Anna Biller said...

Every time a female appears on the screen in this movie, she is the instant object of sexual violence and aggression. If she opens her mouth to sing or speak, she is abused and shouted down. Or she may be lying supine in the dentist's chair, hysterically anticipating his hands in her mouth as if they are a cock. Or, she may be kissed when the kiss is not wanted, or slapped, or raped. The "realness" on display here is the realness of a specific type of male fantasy of letting loose from social and moral rules of conduct, mostly where women are concerned. Interesting as a window into the dark side of a certain type of male imaginary. The characterization was not always believable for me, as I often found the improvisation to be overplayed and forced; besides which most men, even in the '70s, had more dimension and were less tediously macho and juvenile than these guys. The imaginary of this film is similar to that of gore and slasher films in terms of what it gives to a violent male spectator and what it takes away from the ordinary female spectator, who will have a hard time getting into any of these characters. But it's interesting to see the mask ripped off of male sexual violence and misogyny, and I prefer it to dramas that contain the same elements but are less honest about them. The film improved when they got to London, partly because there was at least a dim promise of some females with some self-respect on the screen, although they soon disintegrated, incomprehensibly, into willing victims of the sociopathic protagonists. As an extreme form of male fantasy I suppose it works and may even be cathartic for some men, and I respect it as an innovative exercise in movie-making. But I much prefer Elaine May's similar-themed drama Mikey and Nicky, in which the vulnerability of Cassavetes and Falk (much more believably cast as gangsters), is highlighted in the script, and in which their machoness and struggles with male identity are critiqued and examined in the face of death and betrayed friendship.