Sunday, May 24, 2009

Proposed Film-Discussion Series: "The Original American Independent: John Cassavetes



As of 2007, John Cassavetes is one of only 7 actors to be nominated for Best Directing, Writing, and Acting Oscars over the course of his lifetime. The other 6 are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, John Huston and Kenneth Brannagh.

American Independent
John Cassavetes: Actor-Writer-Director

Date: Time:
SHADOWS (US 87 min. 1960)
Director: John Cassavettes
Starring: Lelia Goldini, Ben Carruthers
Music: Charlie Mingus
The Beat generation espoused a rejection of mainstream American values, and John Cassavetes's Shadows feels like a relic from that movement, with its improvisatory bebop jazz feeling, cameras in the street, method-style performances, frustration about accepted social norms, and an interracial romance between a hipster white guy (Anthony Ray) and a light-skinned black woman (Leila Goldoni) that eventually takes over the episodic narrative. Cassavetes was pushing the envelope at the time, reacting to the formulaic techniques of Hollywood movies. Shadows will forever have the novelty of coming first—frequently credited with being the pioneer American independent movie.
Jeremiah Kipp, The Criterion Collection, February 14, 2009

Date: Time:
Rosemary's Baby (R 136 min. 1968)
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes
Rosemary's Baby is regarded by many as Roman Polanski's finest achievement. Although it is now 32 years since Poland's enfant terrible brought his adapation of Ira Levin's 1967 novel to the screen, it stands up well to the test of time. Starring Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, and John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby is a stylish and brilliantly executed set piece, accurately reflecting the New York of the late 1960's. Set in the famous Dakota building - later to become infamous, following the senseless assassination of John Lennon, on its' doorsteps some two decades later - this masterpiece of suspense will chill even the most hot blooded spine.
Customer review,

Date: Time:
FACES (R 129 min. 1968)
Director: John Cassavetes
Starring: Lynn Carlin, John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel
Financed by acting jobs in films like The Dirty Dozen and Rosemary's Baby, Faces premièred in 1968 and introduced the landscape that Cassavetes would return to again and again: the unquiet inner lives of those new houses that sprung up in the wake of WWII. John Marley and Lynn Carlin star as a couple testing the limits of their unhappy marriage, he with a call girl (Cassavetes' wife, Gena Rowlands), she with free-spirited gigolo Seymour Cassel. Partly improvised, partly scripted, and partly somewhere between the two, Cassavetes' films have frequently been likened to jazz. Faces bears the stamp of its particular era's jazz; it trades in long stretches of chaos, even ugliness, which produce unexpected passages of grace and beauty. As punishing as that ugliness can be, the graceful bits stick in the memory.
Keith Phipps, The Onion A.V. Club, October 18, 2004

Date: Time:
Director: John Cassavetes
Starring: Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery
"Minnie and Moskowitz" isn't much like anything Cassavetes has done before, except in its determination to go all the way with actors' performances - even at the cost of the movie's over-all form. Cassavetes, an actor himself, is one of the few American directors who is really sympathetic with actors. He lets them go, lets them try new things and take risks. This can lead to terribly indulgent performances, as it did in "Husbands." But in "Minnie and Moskowitz" it gives us performances by Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel that are so beautiful you can hardly believe it.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1997

Date: Time:
Director: John Cassavetes
Starring: Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands,
. . . Gena Rowlands is mezmerizing as the working-class housewife, who buckles under the strain of a limited existece, a brutish husband (Peter Falk, in one of several strong collaborations with Cassavetes), insensitive relatives and an uncaring world. Rowlands is in turn heartbreaking, funny, delightful and a frightening as a woman who is overwhelmed by a desperate inability to stay connected.
TLA Film and Video Guide, 1998-1999

Date: Time:
TEMPEST (PG 140 min. 1982)
Director: Paul Mazursky
Starring: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Raul Julia, Molly Ringwold
Phillip (John Cassavetes) is a successful New York architect who is fed up with his wife Antonia (Gena Rowlands), his job with a tycoon named Alonzo (Vittorio Gassman) and life in New York City. He wants to travel and dream. That wish is granted when Antonia, who is resurrecting her acreer as an actress, walks out on him. Philip takes their 13-year-old daughter Miranda (Molly Ringwald) to Greece where they meet Aretha (Susan Sarandon), a twice-divorced free spirit from Brooklyn. The threesome find their own little bit of paradise on a Greek island. Its only other inhabitants is Kalibanos (Raul Julia), a crazy man who lives in a cave with his goats.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice


Programmer, with guest co-hosts to be announced

Clayton K. Lowe, Ph.D.
Emeritus faculty, OSU Photography and Cinema; moderator, World Film Classics, TV-25, Educable; producer/co-host, Columbus Museum of Art Film Series; producer/co-host, "It's Movie Time," WCBE 90.5 FM; occasional guest film panelist, "Open Line Weekends," WOSU 820 AM.

For further information contact:

"The Crazy World of the Not So Crazy David Cronenberg"

Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities
E-mail input to:

Film Discussion Series: OSU PhotoCinema Alumni & Friends Group, Facebook
Clay Lowe, programmer/host with special guest co-hosts
Venue: Landmark's Gateway Theatre
Meeting-screening room, 1550 N. High Street, Columbus, Ohio
All invited, free admission

"The Crazy World of the Not So Crazy David Cronenberg"

Week One
Date: April 29, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Wednesday evening
VIDEODROME (R. Universal. 90 min. 1983)
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods (Cable TV programmer)

In a bizzare demonstration of truly interactive TV, the Videodrome network unleashes its hallucinatory powers upon its unsuspecting viewers, such as Max (frantically played by James Woods), and literally sucks them into its own reality world of violence and passion. So what else is new . . ? The film's powerful and terrifying special effects. They dramatically heighten (psychologically and physically), the impact of Videodrome's violent images upon everyone who approaches the alternative reality world that diabolically lurks within its screens. Like no other film it vividly demonstrates, in extremis, how TV shapes the images that we create within our minds. A highly intelligent critique of television; but be forewarned, it's best to avert your eyes during its most difficult scenes, or you too may become one of its victims. -Clay Lowe, The Movies on Media Handbook, 1997

Guest co-host: Jennifer Ntiri, Actress-Dancer, Arts Psychology

Week Two
Date: May 6, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Wednesday evening
The Fly (R. Twentieth-Century Fox. 100 min. 1986)
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis
Gruesome. yet witty, science fiction horrorfest that leaves the viewer simultaneously choking with laughter and gagging with nausea. The movie is blessed, fortunately, with acting talents that match the eye-catching special effects. Goldblum is perfectly cast as the somewhat nerdy, but ultimately macho, scientist leading man. Davis adds credibility as the inquisitive journalist who becomes Goldblum's lover. Her dedicated concern for him mixes well with her trace of a newsperson's quest for truth. -Wayne Miller, The Movies on Media Handbook, 1997

Guest co-host: Melissa Starker, Alive

Week Three
Date: May 13, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Wednesday evening
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes
Soft-spoken man (Mortensen) who runs a small-town luncheonette is suddenly confronted by two violent strangers--and is more than ready to respond. His actions lead to questions and repercussions. Sexually potent, harshly violent story based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke is arresting entertainment that means to hit us right between the eyes. (R-98m.) -Leonard Maltin, Movie Guide, 2009

Guest Co-host: Vicki Anne Bennett, Artist/Photographer, Novelist

Week Four
Date: May 20, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Wednesday evening
CRASH (NC-17 Canadian. 100 min. 1996)
Director: David Cronenberg
Based on: J. G. Ballard novel
Starring: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Roseanna Arquette
When ....Crash'' premiered in May, 1996, at the Cannes Film Festival, some people fled the theater. The movie has played in Canada and Europe to widespread controversy, inspiring polemics both pro and con. Ted Turner, whose studio, Fine Line, is distributing the film in the United States, has said he hates it. Certainly it will repel and disgust many viewers. It's like a porno movie made by a computer: It downloads gigabytes of information about sex, it discovers our love affair with cars, and it combines them in a mistaken algorithm. The result is challenging, courageous and original--a dissection of the mechanics of pornography. I admired it, although I cannot say I ....liked'' it. It goes on a bit too long. Afterward, I found myself wishing a major director would lavish this kind of love and attention on a movie about my fetishes. (NC-17-100m.) -Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1997

Guest co-hosts: Hope Madden & George Wolf, The Other Paper

Week Five
Date: May 27, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Wednesday evening
EASTERN PROMISES (R. Canadian-British. 100 min. 2007)
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Sinead Cusak
Viggo Mortensen's glower power is on full blast in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, in which he plays the taciturn chauffeur of a London-based Russian crime family. Naomi Watts is fetchingly fretful as the midwife who gets caught in the mobster trap after discovering a potentially incendiary diary. The stars are fine but the movie doesn't quite align: Cronenberg's Organizatsiya saga has moments that are clearly the work of a singular talent, but it frequently plays as melodrama. Dirty Pretty Things screenwriter Steven Knight endeavours once again to present London as a teeming hive of ethnic and ethical tensions, but the questions of cultural dislocation – of old and new worlds in conflict – seem cursory. There's more meat, much of it flayed and abused, in the material about Russian-prison tattooing practices, which strikes a rich metaphorical vein. The theme of the body as a kind of brutal canvas culminates in arguably the greatest set piece of Cronenberg's career – and one of the great recent movie set pieces, period. Breathless, brutal and disquietingly funny, this scene further entrenches Cronenberg's reputation as a grisly virtuoso, and unfortunately exacerbates the weakness of some of the surrounding bits. (R-100m.) -Adam Nayman,, September 13, 2007

Guest co-host: Melissa Starker, Alive

Also, special thanks to Deep Blue Edit for links posted on Facebook's Cronenberg Events invitation.

Programmer-host: Clay Lowe
Emeritus faculty, OSU Photography and Cinema
Formerly: moderator, World Film Classics, Educable TV-25; producer/co-host, Columbus Museum of Art Film Series; producer/co-host, "It's Movie Time," WCBE 90.5 FM. Currently: occasional guest film panelist, "Open Line Weekends," WOSU 820 AM.

Note: The dicussion series is intended to be an exploration of Cronenberg's views on violence rather than an exploration of his work as a whole.

E-mail input: