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.

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