20 March 2017
13 March 2015
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Gena Rowlands, Steven Hill, Paul Stewart,
Buy:A Child Is Waiting [DVD]
John Cassavetes is considered by many to be the father of American Independent cinema; he isn’t in my opinion, as Roger Corman and Sam Fuller predate him, amongst many others. He is however a pioneer in the fact he made these rich, character based dramas that he wrote, directed and put his own money into them. He had a couple years in the early ‘60s before he made his groundbreaking Faces where he almost became a studio director with films like Too Late Blues and A Child in Waiting.
The noted director Stanley Kramer produced A Child is Waiting and they butted heads over the final cut. Despite the post-production turmoil, Cassavetes (who disowned the film), admitted it wasn’t too bad, just a bit overly sentimental for his own taste. It’s a fascinating film for many reasons. Firstly, as a historical depiction of disability on screen, uncommonly (even shamefully today), most of the disabled children are played by actual disabled children which is in tune with Cassavetes’ realistic, improv style.
Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster star in the film, and both gives some of their finest performances in their respective, extraordinary film careers. Lancaster plays the head of the school, Dr. Matthew Clark, and clashes with Garland’s Jean Hansen over his strict teaching methods. Hanson also becomes emotionally involved with one of the kids who Clark considers to be one of their big failures, and they battle over how to education him. Lancaster brings the physicality that he always did due to his background in the circus. Garland also really shows off her acting chops, something that was rarely on display in other films she did.
A Child is Waiting deserves to be re-analysed as one of Cassavetes’ finest films and of his two “Hollywood” films it’s certainly his best, despite obviously being toned down from Cassavetes’ original intentions. Cassavetes had an extremely forward thinking take on the material, stating in the book Cassavetes on Cassavetes, “My film said that retarded children could be anywhere, any time, and that the problem is that we're a bunch of dopes, that it's our problem more than the kids. The point of the original picture that we made was that there was no fault, that there was nothing wrong with these children except that their mentality was lower." The finished film, which Kramer edited, had a bent that was more of it’s time, basically saying the kids are better off in the institute than in the main population.
7 October 2014
26 May 2013
Opening Night is the latest John Cassavetes film BFI being re-released on a dual format blu-ray/dvd combo. They started they’re reissues back in April 2012 with the landmark films Shadows and Faces (which I just picked up the other day). One of the very first reviews I did for the people’s movies / cinehouse was Shadows which to this day remains my favourite Cassavetes directorial effort.
Opening Night is a later Cassavetes film in that golden period of American cinema known as the New Hollywood of the 1970s. Cassavetes was one of the first truly independent American directors of feature films (sometime mistaken as the first but Sam Fuller was a decade before). John would act or sometimes direct Hollywood films so he could fund (and distribute) his more personal improvisational melodramas. John Sayles would later do a similar thing but in that case screenwriting.
Opening Night is very much A Woman Under the Influence (one of Cassavetes’ best films and most well known) goes Broadway. Like A Woman Under the Influence it’s stars John Cassavetes’ real life wife Gena Rowlands who plays the central character Myrtle Gordon, a actress who is rehearsing for her latest play. The play is about a woman unable to admit she is aging and it has many parallels to her own mid-life crisis. Myrtle witnesses a young woman who gets killed after trying to meet her after a preview of the play and this deeply troubles her and she feels responsible for her death. Her feelings of guilt start to interfere with her professional work but she also has a serious drinking problem as well. The film deals with her very complicated relationships with the stage director (played by frequent Cassavetes collaborator Ben Gazzara) producer, fellow actors (including one played by John Cassavetes) etc. She also starts having hallucinations of the dead girl near the end of the film, which reminds you of Black Swan, a similar themed film about the parallels of a stage life and personal life and the eventual merging of the 2.
Like many of Cassavetes films he could certain use with some reigning in during the editing process (many of his films have went though many cuts and released and then withdrawn and re-released) and the film suffers from many way too long. It’s round the 2 hour and 30 minute mark with many scenes of the play wasting the running time and being pretty obvious with it’s parallels with Myrtle’s life. Cassavetes was first and foremost an actor and all his films are very much actor’s pieces and he is great and bringing out great performances but they can become too actory and stagey (most evident in this film for obvious reasons). Cassavetes has always struggled with pacing in his films and this is no exception but it has a great performance by Gena Rowlands. I would recommend seeing A Woman Under the Influence before you see this, which is the superior film and performance.
DVD/BD Release Date:27th May 2013 (UK)
Director: John Cassavetes
Cast:John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell
Buy: Opening Night (DVD & Blu-ray)
18 April 2013
The latest release in the BFI’s John Cassavetes Collection, out on 27 May 2013, is the award-winning Opening Night (1977), starring Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes and Ben Gazarra.
Released on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, it is presented in a Dual Format Edition (also contains a DVD disc). Numerous extras include an audio commentary, a documentary – Memories of John and Peter Falk (Columbo) talking about John Cassavetes.
Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) rehearses for her latest play about a woman in denial at the onset of her autumn years. When Myrtle witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, it leads to a crisis of confidence in both her professional and her personal life which threatens to undermine the whole production.
Featuring a startling and compelling performance by Gena Rowlands, which won her the Silver Bear for Best Actress in 1978, Opening Night is arguably one of John Cassavetes’ most self-reflexive works and offers an insightful and intriguing evocation of the theatrical experience from both sides of the proscenium.
Click here to see Peter Falk talking about the director, along with a short clip from the film:
• Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition;
• Audio commentary by Tom Charity, Mike Ferris and Bo Harwood;
• Memories of John (DVD only, 29 mins);
• Falk on Cassavetes: the later years (DVD only, 14 mins);
• Illustrated booklet featuring interviews and essays from Tom Charity, Al Ruban and Peter Bogdanovich