Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (Disney) and Letters to Juliet (Summit) are both covered by fellow MSN critics, while I review Princess Kaiulani (Lionsgate) at MSN and Starcrash, the 1978 Italian Star Wars knock-off, on my blog here. That covers the big ticket releases and the cult item of the week. As for the rest…
Sit down, my son, my son
My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done (First Look / Absurda) – “David Lynch Presents a Werner Herzog Film,” reads the credits of this weirdly deadpan drama, based on the real-life matricide perpetrated by an unstable actor who reenacts a Greek tragedy in his own life and played out as a surreal police procedural. It’s hard to tell if Herzog adopted some of Lynch’s sensibility along with some of his acting company, or if the juxtaposition merely makes their compatibility more apparent, and honestly, I’m not sure I get the film, but it burrowed into me nonetheless.
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John Cassavetes has been called the godfather of American independent cinema, and for good reason: he made highly personal, aggressively discomforting, astonishingly intimate films about troubled relationships in the modern world. Husbands, subtitled “A comedy about life death and freedom,” follows three middle-aged men (Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and Cassavetes), long time friends and family men, as they run from their despair after the death of the man who completed their fun-loving group. This is a Cassavetes kind of mid-life crisis: they indulge their worst, most selfish instincts as they attempt to outrun their fears of mortality and frustrations of compromised lives. They carouse in all-night drinking binges, rush off for a weekend of gambling and cheating in London and slip into boyish giggling and sniggering whenever the situation gets too personal. Only while safely hidden in a bar room toilet do they let their fears pour out. It’s also interesting to note that this film was produced in 1969 and released in 1970, looking forward in style and subject matter to the films that would define seventies filmmaking.
Four friends, soon to be three
As with most of Cassavete’s personal projects, his script was reworked through rehearsals and improvisations with actors investing themselves deeply in their characters and dramatic crises. The result is a mix of idiosyncratic insights and raw emotion pouring out in startling moments between long, rambling, often uncomfortable conversations which are as much about what is not said as what is, and sold by raw, intense performances and volatile ensemble chemistry. Cassavete’s original version was cut by the studio for wide release. This DVD is restored to its 142 minute running time. Cassavetes biographer Marshall Fine offers a well-organized commentary that is both a Cassavetes primer and a comprehensive study of the development of the film. The excellent 30-minute documentary The Story of Husbands: A Tribute to John Cassavetes features new interviews with Gazzara, producer Al Ruban and director of photography Victor Kemper, whose insights and remembrances fill out Fine’s portrait of Cassavetes even more. “John used rehearsals mainly for himself, to rewrite, to listen,” explains an aged but still very articulate Gazarra. “He had an idea of where this material was going, what played, what didn’t play. So we rehearsed for three weeks before we started shooting.” Adds producer Ruban: “His style, if you can call it such, is coming to the set, everyone, being prepared to do the day’s work and then discovering something that was totally unexpected from the actors…. And that’s why he is really an actor’s director.” The most unexpected revelation: Cassavetes didn’t know Gazarra or Falk before he cast them. He merely knew of their work and thought they would be good collaborators. His instincts were right: they became regular collaborators and lifelong friends.
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