Monday, June 2, 2014

Cassavetes gives a clinic on reality vs. perception

By Steve Evans
Check out this fascinating clip of an old talk show, when filmmaking men still had balls of blue steel and were unafraid to make a statement.

John Cassavetes, that great Godfather of indie cinema, wanders onto the Dick Cavett show in 1970 with compatriots Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara, ostensibly to promote Cassavete's picture "Husbands" (which is a searing cinematic experience). All appear to have been drinking heavily. Talk-show TeeVee was quite different 40-odd years ago. Poor Cavett; he struggles valiantly through the first half of the interview.

Then an amazing thing occurs. Cassavetes actually gets down to business around the 25-minute mark and offers some remarkably insightful thoughts on middle age as it relates to his film. Falk and Gazzara, after fucking around for 20 minutes, suddenly chime in with their own equally lucid and rather sharp observations of what it means to be a man in a society determined to make conformists out of everyone.

This sudden on-air turnabout from drunken buffoonery to poignant social commentary is stunning. Seldom do we get to see performance art acted out on live television in such a convincing way that your entire perception of this free-wheeling interview evolves and turns 180 degrees miraculously before your eyes. Plus, these guys are so damn cool, so supremely confident in what they are up to, that it's an absolute disgrace Cassavetes' films are not all in the Library of Congress. How hard must it be to be so misunderstood and yet so relentless in the quest of your own personal vision?

We learn, once again, that nothing is ever as it truly seems. And that realization is the very definition of liberation.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Film, Beethoven, Flash Mobs and Perfect Dinner Parties

By Steve Evans

Someone once asked me at a dinner party...who I would invite to a dinner party and what I would serve. The latter answer is easy -- filet mignon grilled fast in brandy and minced shallots, lobster tails slathered in drawn butter and lemon zest, grilled asparagus, roasted new potatoes with rosemary and crushed garlic cloves, and grapefruit salad dressed with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.  Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for the lobster. New York style cheesecake topped with ripe raspberries and port wine for dessert.

Then there would be cigars and cognac.

As for the guest list, that becomes problematic. Most of my heroes have left this plane of existence, but if we could resurrect them (and language was no barrier to our conversation), I would invite Jesus, Buddha, Aristotle, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, John Coltrane, Bill Evans (no relation), Cleopatra, Louise Brooks, Myrna Loy, Jean Renoir, Picasso, Neil Armstrong, Cary Grant, Stanley Kubrick, Henri Georges Clouzot, Jeanne Moreau, possibly Richard III, definitely Abraham Lincoln and Ingmar Bergman, Grace Kelly if she was free that night, and Jimi Hendrix, because he was always Stone Free. If there was still room at the table I would welcome Ed Wood Jr., Phil Tucker (who directed Robot Monster, one of the most sublime and yet still awful films I have seen), Victor Hugo and Joan of Arc, Ghandi (he would pass on the fillets of beef, no doubt), and James Agee, who may be the most under-appreciated writer of the 20th century.

I think I would ask Marilyn Monroe for a date that evening, not for the reasons you might think, but because I might be able to pierce her shell ( I am good like that) and perhaps understand the demons that drove her. Plus, I am confident that I could kick Jack Kennedy's (or Bobby''s) ass into the street.

And by the time we got around to the cigars and brandy, I would ask Beethoven to perform for us all.

Here, then, is the coda on my perfect dinner party...wandering outdoors we would all encounter the most wonderful thing I have seen since the dawn of the Internet.

Life is beautiful. I would do well to remember that. So would we all.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014. By Steve Evans. All rights reserved.