February 28 – March 14

“I AM HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”: THE FREE-FORM FILMMAKING OF JOHN CASSAVETES

Lauded as the archetypal Hollywood maverick, a pioneer of independent cinema who used his own money (not to mention that of wife Gena Rowlands and other high-profile friends and collaborators) to retain complete control over production – and, often, distribution – of his singular, sadly truncated body of work, John Cassavetes (1929–1989) can lay claim on several fronts to being the most influential post-war US filmmaker.

From the initial experimentation of Shadows in the late 1950s, through intermittent flirtations with Hollywood to the astonishing achievements of his independent epics, he revolutionised American cinema’s approach to acting, writing, producing and, less famously, shooting and editing. Emerging from the fervent New York acting scene of the 1950s, Cassavetes advanced cinema’s ongoing realist project by adding a Stanislavskian concern with individual truth, and infusing the result with the spirit of free jazz.

His films, often lazily categorised as naturalistic, are highly performative, radically shifting the traditional focus of narrative cinema away from plot and onto the moment-to-moment truths of his characters. Minor cameos take centre stage; stunning structural pirouettes leave plotlines unresolved, or introduce major characters halfway through a film. Unexpected ellipses take us across space and time with little explanation, the director demanding that his audience, like his actors, stay immersed in the moment. Having the opportunity to watch Cassavetes bring his actors to an emotional pitch that embodies the essence of being human – confused, messy, passionate, alive – is enough, on its own, to justify the very existence of cinema.

This season of imported prints brings together many of Cassavetes’ key works, from the formative and seminal Shadows to the masterfully messy life force that is his last great work, Love Streams.

February 28

7:00pm – SHADOWS
John Cassavetes (1959) 87 mins – PG

Three African-American siblings – two of whom pass for white – negotiate issues of identity in the milieu of New York’s jazz scene. Developed out of improvisations at Cassavetes’ acting workshop, famously re-shot and re-cut after a less-than-auspicious premiere, the rawness, spontaneity and unadorned love Cassavetes displays for his characters and the actors who create them remains self-evident in this seminal work of US independent cinema. The open-ended ambiguity of plot and character motivation heralds an American New Wave which would take another decade to crash onto Hollywood’s shores.

35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


8:40pm – LOVE STREAMS
John Cassavetes (1984) 141 mins – M

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, before quickly lapsing into semi-obscurity, Cassavetes’ final film with wife and lifelong muse Gena Rowlands is now rightly regarded as one of his supreme masterpieces, “a mighty, intimate, kaleidoscopically subjective, bravely self-searching summation of a career, an era, and a life” (Richard Brody). Brilliantly deploying the crucible of the family home to anatomise the oscillating psychological and emotional states of two damaged but eminently relatable siblings (played by Cassavetes and Rowlands), the result is one of cinema’s great testaments to the mysteries of the familial bond.

March 7

7:00pm – FACES
John Cassavetes (1968) 130 mins – M

This complex and truly spontaneous chamber drama is Cassavetes at his most trenchant and affecting. Starring Lynn Carlin and veteran character actor John Marley as a couple clinging to the last vestiges of a fractured marriage, its deeply-etched tension is accentuated by stark black-and-white cinematography and probing close-ups. Produced outside the Hollywood establishment, this study of late 1960s American dissatisfaction and complacency was not only a clarion call for independent filmmaking, but also an attack on the structural and aesthetic conventions of classical cinema. With Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel.

35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


9:20pm – MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ
John Cassavetes (1971) 114 mins – M

Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel – previously cast together in Faces – star in what Cassavetes evocatively described as “a fairytale dedicated to all the people who didn’t marry the person they should have”. A lonesome museum curator starts an unlikely romance with a frenzied car-park attendant in one of the director’s most accessible and touching movies. This transitional work characteristically goes all the way with its characters, sketching a wonderfully rich and messy canvas of relationships, environment, Hollywood’s unrealistic expectations and the overwhelming physicality of love. With Timothy Carey.

March 14

7:00pm – GLORIA
John Cassavetes (1980) 123 mins – PG

Financed by Columbia Pictures, this fascinating combination of gritty urban drama and well-worn crime genre clichés follows the burgeoning relationship that develops between an ex-mob mistress, Gloria, and a young boy (the remarkable John Adames) whose family have been murdered. The pair goes on the run as the gangsters close in. Thanks to Cassavetes and a tour-de-force performance by Gena Rowlands, the film goes well beyond its mainstream genre trappings, becoming a striking exploration of emotional resilience, personal agency and the limits of one’s own humanity.


9:15pm – HUSBANDS
John Cassavetes (1970) 131 mins – M

Cut down from an unmanageable amount of exposed footage, Cassavetes’ fifth feature is arguably the most divisive and extreme instance of his fearless improvisational style. Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara and the director himself play close buddies who, after attending the funeral of their friend, go on a 48-hour bender in New York before decamping to London for further indulgence. Discomforting in its depiction of ingrained misogyny and bracingly ramshackle in form, Cassavetes’ expansive follow up to Faces is brimful with virtuosic acting, raw honesty and telling observation.

February 7–21
JEANNE MOREAU: THE FACE OF THE NOUVELLE VAGUE

February 28 – March 14
“I AM HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”: THE FREE-FORM FILMMAKING OF JOHN CASSAVETES

March 21 – April 2
TWISTED NERVE: BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR OF THE 1960s AND 1970s

April 9 – April 25
FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, CHILD OF THE CINEMA

May 2
GIRLS IN UNIFORM: LANDMARKS OF LESBIAN CINEMA

May 9
COLONIAL LEGACIES – THE VIEW FROM THERE. A COLLABORATION WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS ARTS & FILM FESTIVAL.

May 16 – May 23
WITHOUT COMPROMISE: THOM ANDERSEN’S AMERICA

May 30 – June 13
PLAYING SOLO: THE SADLY BEAUTIFUL CAREER OF MONTGOMERY CLIFT

June 20 – July 4
THE STORY OF WOMEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF KINUYO TANAKA

July 11 – July 25
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES: GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM AFTER CALIGARI

August 22 – September 5
BEYOND LEONE: THE RADICAL LAWLESSNESS OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN

September 12 – September 26
ORIGINAL SINS: RESISTANCE AND FEMINISM IN THE AVANT-GARDE CINEMA OF VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ

October 3
CONTESTING HISTORY: BICENTENNIAL LEGACIES

October 10 – October 31
ON DANGEROUS GROUND: IDA LUPINO, TRAILBLAZER

November 7 – November 21
ECHOES FROM TAIWAN: THE MAJOR WORKS OF EDWARD YANG

November 28 – December 5
ON BODY AND SOUL: THE PASSION ACCORDING TO AMIEL COURTIN-WILSON

December 12 – December 19
ANARCHY AND ECSTASY: THE INTERMEDIATE CINEMA OF DUŠAN MAKAVEJEV