John Cassavetes – Five Films on BluRay

On October 22nd, Criterion will re-release their best selling John Cassavetes – Five Films collection on high definition Blu Ray along with an extensive amount of special features. Film enthusiasts who want to own some of the classic works of one of America’s greatest independent filmmakers in a newly restored edition should pick this set up.

SHADOWS (1959) While the Nouvelle Vague was booming in France, filmmakers like Cassavetes were creating their own groundbreaking counter-culture works that would influence the way movies were made and seen by audiences. Shadows was one of the earliest examples of the medium of cinema verite which combined documentary style filmmaking with improvisation. The subject matter, which dealt with interracial relationships was also a very controversial topic for its time. Cassavetes shot the movie twice: once in 1957, and again in 1959, the second version was his favorite. Starring Ben Carruthers and Leila Goldoni.

FACES (1968) Each of the people we spend time with seem to be deeply unsatisfied with their lives and are searching for happiness. The title itself is a metaphor for the faces people must wear and their true faces, which they hide because of the pressures of society and how they are expected to behave. One thing that is so captivating in this film is how the moments of personal despair and anger are juxtaposed with outright hilarity. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that will have you laughing so hard one moment and feeling such pity the next. Starring John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel.

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) John Cassavetes moves into the realm of every day domestic life and tells the story of Mabel (Gena Rowlands) a stay at home mother and her husband Nick (Peter Falk) a hard working construction worker. We learn that Mabel, while goodhearted, is regarded as a bit strange. What Nick first sees as her being simply a bit eccentric soon changes to deep concern as Mabel sinks deeper into declining mental health.

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (1976) Inspired by Martin Scorsese’s 1973 crime film Mean Streets (which was itself inspired by a suggestion from Cassavetes after seeing Scorsese’s impersonal B-movie Boxcar Bertha). Gazzarra plays nightclub owner Cosmo Vitelli who has an outstanding gambling debt which he owes to a loanshark who is owned by the mob. When Vitelli makes it known that he can’t fulfill his entire payment, the mob uses it as a way to force him to become a hitman.

OPENING NIGHT (1976) Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) is a Broadway actress that is working on a new play called “Second Woman” about a character who cannot admit she is getting older. After witnessing the tragic death of one of her fans who she met backstage, Myrtle begins to suffer an emotional breakdown. The film becomes a strange mirror between Myrtle’s real life problems and the ones troubling the character she plays. She even has hallucinations of her younger self trying to attack her and people around her in a Black Swan like fashion.

A CONSTANT FORGE (2000) “Charles Kiselyak’s A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes is a detailed journey through the career of one of film’s greatest pioneers and iconoclasts, assembled from candid interviews with Cassavetes’ collaborators and friends, rare photographs, and archival footage.” (Criterion)

SPECIAL FEATURES

– New high-definition digital restorations of all five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
– New high-definition digital restoration of Cassavetes’s 108-minute 1978 version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
– A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes (2000), a 200-minute documentary by Charles Kiselyak
– New interviews with actor Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel about Shadows
– Silent footage from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop, from which Shadows emerged
– Restoration demonstration for Shadows
– Alternate eighteen-minute opening sequence for Faces
– Episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps from 1968, dedicated to Cassavetes
* Making “Faces,” a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Cassel, Lynn Carlin, and Gena Rowlands and director of photography Al Ruban
– Al Ruban on Lighting and Shooting “Faces,” a new video program featuring commentary by Ruban (Blu-ray); Lighting and Shooting the Film, an on-screen essay by Ruban, illustrated with video clips, that discusses the techniques and equipment used on Faces (DVD)
– Audio commentary for A Woman Under the Influence by sound recordist and composer Bo Harwood and camera operator Mike Ferris
– New conversation between Rowlands and actor Peter Falk about A Woman Under the Influence
– New interviews with actor Ben Gazzara and Ruban on The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
– New conversation between Rowlands and Gazzara about Opening Night
– New interview with Ruban about Opening Night
– Audio interviews with Cassavetes from the 1970s about A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night
– Trailers for Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night
– Stills and poster galleries
– Biographical sketches of the actors Cassavetes frequently cast in his films, written by Tom Chartity (John Cassavetes: Lifeworks) (DVD only)
– PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Gary Giddins, Kent Jones, Charles Kiselyak, Stuart Klawans, Dennis Lim, and Phillip Lopate; writings by and interviews with Cassavetes; and tributes to the filmmaker by director Martin Scorsese; actor and writer Elaine Kagan, Cassavetes’s former secretary; and novelist Jonathan Lethem
– New covers by Lucien S. Y. Yang

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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1 Response

  1. Sebastian says:

    To my shame I haven’t seen a single one of them

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