Have you seen any of John Cassavetes'
films? He's the legendary independent director who wrote and directed movies for 30 years from 1959 to the late 80s. Years ago while living in L.A. I went to a tribute of his work where I saw four of his movies in a week and was deeply moved by them. A program from that tribute with Cassavetes quotes and notes by Ray Carney
, Professor of Film at Boston University and author of The Films of John Cassavetes
, is something I've read over and over again when I need to feel understood and that there are others I can relate to when it comes to the complexities of love and our humanity. At a time when many things that I encounter everyday seem pointless and stupid (pop culture, sales, advertising, politics) I relish in the work and non-judgmental perspective of John Cassavetes. Some of his films: Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, She's So Lovely
. Some of his words (it's long but worth it. The film he's referring to is She's So Lovely)
"What I think everybody needs is a way to say, 'Where and how can I be in love so that I can live? So that I can live with some degree of peace.' I guess every picture we've ever done has been, in a way, to try to find some kind of philosophy for the characters in the film. And so, that's why I have a need for the characters to really analyze love, discuss it, kill it, destroy it, hurt each other, do all the stuff in that war, in that word-polemic and film-polemic of what life is. And the rest of the stuff doesn't really interest me. It may interest other people, but I have a one-track mind. That's all I'm interested in - love. And the lack of it. When it stops. And the pain that's caused by loss of things that are taken away from us that we really need.
Everything that affects our lives is determined by the influence that one sex has upon the other. Sure we're in the midst of political decay and turmoil - but that's not nearly as interesting. That's more mental, based on how much information you have. The relationships between men and women are permanently fixed in our instincts, not our minds.
Family life is so different from what has been fed into us through the tube and through the radio and through the casual, inadvertent greed that surrounds us. . . Films today show only a dream world and have lost touch with the way people really are. . . .Marriage, like any partnership, is a rather difficult thing. And it has been taken rather lightly in the movies. . . This film deals with the serious problems of a man and woman who are ignorant of their problems, yet totally in love.
I don't know anybody who has an easy pattern of behavior. I know people who are just sensational one minute, and absolute bastards the next. And these moods come from specific things that I can't put my finger on because I don't know their whole life. . . I say, Jesus, I like this person even though I know he is an s.o.b., you know, I love him, and I can't help it. It's his personality and his style that I like.
As people we know that we are petty, vicious, violent and horrible, but my films make an effort to contain the depression within us and to limit the depression to those areas that we can actually solve. The comic resolution of my films, if one could call it that, is the assertion of a human spirit.
I like to deal with characters who have a bit more feeling than the stereotype. . . People prefer distance. In movies today there is a reluctance to show really deep feelings. They don't like vulnerability.
[People kill themselves because of] society's inability to educate, in terms of love, any further than a given point. Nobody in this world seems to be able to love beyond a certain point; they all go up to a certain point then they become emotionally tired of it, or bored or hurt. They change, and their love doesn't transcend certain obstacles. For somebody who is very sensitive and idealistic, as we all start out to be, it becomes a dramatic experience. You can either make that bridge or not, and we are going to make this picture for people who are possibly lost, and try to point out the reasons for it.
My films are expressive of a culture that has had the possibility of attaining material fulfillment while at the same time finding itself unable to accomplish the simple business of conducting human lives. We have been sold a bill of goods as a substitute for life. What is needed is reassurance in human emotions; a re-evaluation of our emotional capacities.
I won't call my work entertainment. It's exploring. It's asking questions of people, constantly. How much do you feel? How much do you know? Are you aware of this? Can you cope with this? A good movie will ask you questions you don't already know the answers to. Film is an investigation of our lives. What we are. What our responsibilities in life are - if any. What we are looking for. Why would I want to make a film about something I already understand?. . .People have said that my films are very difficult to watch, that they're experiences you are put through rather than ones you enjoy, and it's true.
I refrain from leading people by their noses by imposing a stereotyped moral vision in my work. I believe in the validity of a person's inner desires. Whether they are ugly or beautiful, they are pertinent to each of us, and are probably the only things worth a damn. I want to put those inner desires on the screen so we can all look and think and feel and marvel at them.
I'm a revolutionary - but not in the political sense. . .In my opinion these people and these small emotions are the greatest political force there is. These small emotions, these character disagreements are of vital necessity.
[My films] really are all love stories and not just a chance meeting and a two second love affair. They're optimistic. . .Here's a situation with a couple who have nothing in common except love."
And Ray Carney
"As in classic Greek drama, each of Cassavetes' films ends with a moment of insight or self-recognition. Characters discover something about themselves - not by thinking but by listening to their feelings. One day they finally hear a little voice of discontent that may have been nagging away for years, and, if they are lucky, wake up. Cassavetes is a very spiritual artist. All of his work is about learning to hear that still, small voice. What is wonderful is that he never gives up on even his most doomed characters. He is an artist of hope - a poet of the miraculous, transforming power of love and grace."