Saturday, October 06, 2007

Best director ever to inspire an awful Le Tigre song

Every time I read some reference to "mumblecore" (is that still around?) or catch five insufferable minutes of The Puffy Chair on Sundance, I'm tempted to think "What hath John Cassavetes wrought?" Long considered the "patron saint of independent film," not even the best of his microbudget progeny seem to have inherited the kind of odd originality and heavily spiked life juice that pulsates through his finest work -- namely, the entire run from Faces ('68) to Opening Night ('77), along with his "farewell" '84 film, Love Streams (still haven't seen Shadows). A Cassavetes film can be thrilling, albeit exhausting, for viewers who adapt to the extreme emotional shifts and individualistic, drunken language, or just half-assed and irritating for those that don't. But I don't envy anyone that would reject so many wild, priceless moments: Gena Rowlands waiting for the school bus in A Woman Under the Influence; Ben Gazzara taking time out from a forced mob hit to check in on the status of his awful nightclub act in Killing of a Chinese Bookie; Gena suffering through a horrific blind date in Minne and Moskowitz, only to eventually find true love w/ Seymour Cassel and his facial hair; Gena again "shaking things up" for Cassavetes by bringing him a stable of barnyard animals in Love Streams, to name but a few. If you're tuned to Cassavetes' wavelength, the creative rush of his films is still palpable, and certainly very few American filmmakers past or present were ever so liberated in their work, or reached so high for a new mode of self-expression.

But wait, I've just discovered there's more! Cassavetes apparently sought to make great strides not just in filmmaking, but in the realm of wacky talk show appearances as well. Cassavetes, Gazzara and Peter Falk appeared on a full episode of the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, ostensibly to promote Husbands, which as you can tell from the Life cover above was anticipated with much critical fanfare at the time. However, they must have decided the best way to do so would be to try to recreate the film's mad bender vibe on Cavett's show. Dick was a professed Faces fan and remains a great, witty sport throughout his guests' Three Method Stooges act, whereas Letterman would have probably gritted his teeth for five minutes before moving on to the next barely engaged interview. The full episode is uploaded complete with vintage commercials in part one below, as well as parts two, three and four.

Also, here's a bonus slice of Dick Cavett awesomeness (as always, bear in mind my criteria for awesomeness may differ wildly from yours): a great clip from the Orson Welles interview that Gazzara briefly refers to in one of the above clips


Bruce said...

I got a book for you Chris that just screams a Cassevettes film waiting to be made.

The second one listed:

Little Earl said...

I kinda like that Le Tigre song.

Anyway, I've only seen Shadows and Woman Under the Influence. Leaning more towards "half-assed and irritating" than "thrilling, albeit exhausting," but he's definitely interesting.