John Cassavetes was an American film director, producer and actor. He is best known for his films “Emile Hirsch: A Life” (2008), “Faces Places” (2017) and “John Cassavetes’s 9” (2018).

Cassavetes was born on February 6th, 1928 in Atherton, CA. He studied at the University of Southern California and worked as a freelance cameraman before he started making his own films in New York City during the late 1950’s.

He won an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for his screenplay of “Shadows” (1959).

Cassavetes directed more than fifty feature films over his lifetime; many of these were low-budget independent films made with nonprofessional actors. His first major hit was Graffiti (1973),

which starred Peter Falk as a fast-talking detective tracking down a thief who has stolen his wife’s jewelry. Other hits include The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), West Side Story (1961), The Killing of a Snapping Turtle (1971) and Shadows (1959).

Best John Cassavetes Films

Let’s look at some of John Cassavetes’ best movies.

1. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)              

 A Woman Under the Influence is a 1974 American comedy-drama film directed by John Cassavetes. It is also known as A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and I’m a Bum.

The film stars Gena Rowlands as a middle-aged alcoholic whose life takes an unexpected turn when her best friend, who has been estranged from her family after having an abortion, finally returns home.

The film was entered into the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.[2] It was nominated for two Golden Globes: Best Actress (Rowlands) and Best Screenplay (Cassavetes).

The story is based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy Allison.[3]

Plot [ edit ]

The story follows alcoholic Christina “Christy” Cellars (Gena Rowlands), who is struggling to maintain her life in New York City after being fired from her job at a hotel. She meets Abby Hobart (Dyan Cannon),

a homeless woman who reveals that she is pregnant and living with her abusive boyfriend, Joe Cellars (Louise Fletcher). Christy tries to help Abby escape her situation but cannot because she herself lives on the streets as well because she cannot afford rent in New York City as a single mother with two children. Her husband is absent,

A Woman Under the Influence
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Sam Shaw (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a film about the life and death of a gambler who runs his own bookmaking business in the 1950s and 60s. The story is told through the eyes of his son, who has come to despise his father’s profession.

In one scene, John Cassavetes’ character turns to his son and says: “You’re like me, you know. You’re no different from me.” The line is both moving and true; it could be spoken by any parent who has watched his or her children grow up and leave home.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie shows how even people who do not directly deal with gambling can be affected by it in ways big and small. It also makes clear that for all its beauty, there are some things money cannot buy.

Killing of a Chinese Bookie
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ben Gazzara, Timothy Carey, Seymour Cassel (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Al Ruban (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3. Opening Night (1977)

 Opening Night is a 1977 comedy film written and directed by John Cassavetes. The film was based on the stage play Opening Night, which was written by Cassavetes and first performed by him in 1974.

It tells the story of a struggling actor (played by Peter Falk) who reluctantly agrees to direct a production of Waiting for Godot at a theater in New York City. The play premiered at the Public Theater in New York on May 1, 1975.[1]

The film was made with an ensemble cast that included Peter Falk (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role),

Gena Rowlands (who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role), Harvey Keitel,[2] Hal Holbrook,[3] Mary Stuart Masterson,[4] Tony Roberts,[5] David Strathairn[6] and Julie Kavner.[7] The film received favorable reviews from critics and became a box office success.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Opening Night
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Al Ruban (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. Husbands (1970)        

 Husbands is a 1970 American comedy film directed by John Cassavetes, and starring Peter Falk, Sharon Gless and Gene Barry. The screenplay was written by Cassavetes, based on his own play of the same name. It was the first film directed by Cassavetes.

The plot follows three couples as they go through their weekly routines at home or going out to dinner: Sally (Gless), her husband Leo (Falk), and their friends Marie (Barry) and neighbor Doug (Randy Quaid).

The women are having an affair; Marie has been married to Doug for only six months, while he has been married to Sally for twenty years. Sally’s husband Leo is a lonely man who is obsessed with his work and does not know how to deal with his family’s needs.

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5. Faces (1968) 

Faces is the first film made by John Cassavetes. The screenplay was written by his wife and fellow actress Gena Rowlands. The film is about a group of people who are trying to find themselves in a world that has changed for them. It is an interesting look at how we all react differently to the same situation.

The setting is a small community, where everyone knows each other. One day, the townspeople are surprised when a man walks into their town and begins to ask questions about himself.

He has no memory of who he was, or where he came from, but he wants answers. The man soon realizes that no one remembers him, so he decides to take matters into his own hands and try to find out who he really is.

The film shows us how different people act when they encounter something unexpected or strange in life. Some react calmly,

while others freak out and lose control of themselves completely. We see this happen over and over again throughout the film as different people deal with what they see as a threat to their existence by any means necessary.

I found Faces very interesting because it showed me how different people react under similar circumstances

Faces
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Maurice McEndree (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

6. Shadows (1958)          

John Cassavetes directed this film about a group of people who used to be friends but now are enemies. The story opens with Nick, who is married and has two daughters, being forced to work in a factory by his wife’s brother-in-law.

The factory is a shadow of what it once was, and Nick resents the way things have changed. He also resents his boss, who appears to be insensitive to their plight. Nick’s dissatisfaction and resentment grows when he finds out that one of his co-workers has been killed in an accident at work.

The main conflict in the film is between Nick and his boss, Mr. Boggs (Curt Conway). They both want different things out of life: Boggs wants to make money from the factory;

Nick just wants enough money so that he won’t have to work there anymore. They clash over how much power each has, who can do what without interference from either party, and what will happen once they’re forced out of their jobs and there aren’t enough people left to keep things going smoothly.

The Shadows, 1958
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • See, Orynge (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 48 Pages - 05/17/2015 (Publication Date)

7. Love Streams (1984)                 

 John Cassavetes’ 1984 film Love Streams is one of his most personal and intimate films. With no dialogue and just a few ellipses of music, it depicts the quiet life of an elderly couple living in a rural community. They are estranged, but their lives are intertwined as they share their time together and memories of their past.

Cassavetes’ first wife, Gena Rowlands, stars as Charlotte, a woman who lives alone after her husband’s death. She has become obsessed with a young preacher (played by her daughter) who comes to town every Sunday.

She believes that he is the reincarnation of her late husband, who died when she was pregnant with him. As she grows more isolated with age and illness, she becomes increasingly convinced that her son is God’s chosen vessel for salvation through this man’s teachings.

This film is one of Cassavetes’ best known works because it features his signature style: handheld camera work, rapid editing and an improvisational style that focuses on small details rather than plot twists or character development

   
Love Streams
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Diahnne Abbott (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - Ted Allan (Writer) - Yoram Globus (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8. Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

 Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) is a film that has been described as “a deconstruction of the Hollywood dream factory.” It is the story of two struggling actors, Minnie (Minnie Driver) and Moskowitz (John Cassavetes), who are forced to go on a road trip with their former agent, played by Gene Hackman.

The film was directed by John Cassavetes, who also acted in it; his wife Gena Rowlands played his mother.

The film is about three friends who are trying to make it in Hollywood without much success. They are faced with many obstacles along the way, including ageism, sexism and racism. To complicate matters further, they have to deal with family issues as well.

Cassavetes was inspired to write this film after reading an article about actors getting older and being forced into retirement because they cannot afford to continue working.

He wanted to show how difficult it can be for actors to keep up with younger actresses who are considered more modern than them because they look younger than their age.

This film shows how people’s lives can change over time even if they do not try too hard or take any risks

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Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Belgium ]
  • Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
  • Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
  • Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) (Producer)
  • Spanish (Subtitle)

9. Gloria (1980)

 John Cassavetes’s Gloria (1980) is a strange film. It’s about a young woman who has a nervous breakdown and goes to live with her mother. It’s also about a man who comes to visit her and ends up being her lover.

It sounds like it could be a story about the dissolution of marriage or something like that, but it isn’t. It’s about how people can be very different from each other even if they live together. The film does not have any point of view on this topic; it just shows it happening.

This makes Gloria interesting because it gives us our first glimpse of what Cassavetes would do when he got more money and could make bigger movies than he could when he was struggling to get his first one made.

The film has all the hallmarks of Cassavetes’s later style: lots of close-ups, long takes without interruption by cutaways (which are rare), extreme angles, and improvised dialogue (“I’m going to get you pregnant”).

There are some problems with the script for this movie: Gloria doesn’t seem like an especially sympathetic character (she’s cold and selfish), and she spends most

Gloria
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Gena Rowlands, Buck Henry, Julie Carmen (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Sam Shaw (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

10. A Child Is Waiting (1963)

A Child Is Waiting is the fifth feature film of the director John Cassavetes. The movie is set in a small town, where a mother has to care for her two children while her husband is away.

The family is poor and lives in an apartment with no kitchen or bathroom. The father works as a janitor in a factory and sends money home constantly. He wants his wife to leave her job as an ice-cream seller so that he can support them financially, but she refuses.

The film centers on their lives and the relationship between them. It features several scenes where the mother prepares food for her children by cooking it on top of a hot plate in the living room, which causes smoke and fumes to fill the house.

On one occasion she burns herself badly on the stovetop and has to be taken to the hospital for treatment; meanwhile her husband does not visit her at all during this time, even though it would have been possible for him to do so since he was only about three blocks away from their home at that time (there are also several shots of him walking into their apartment building).

The whole family moves from one place to another over several days because they cannot afford to stay any longer in their current living

Child is Waiting, A
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Gena Rowlands (Actors)
  • Cassavetes,John (Director) - Abby Mann (Writer) - Stanley Kramer (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Characteristics of John Cassavetes Films

 The most important characteristic of John Cassavetes’ films is the fact that they are very realistic. This means that they have no happy endings and no heroic characters. His characters are people who are real, who make real mistakes, who fall in love and get married, who fight with their families, and so on.

Another characteristic of John Cassavetes’ films is that they are very emotional. There are many scenes in his movies where you can really feel what the actors feel at that moment in their lives. For example, when the father dies in “A Woman Under the Influence”, you really feel for these people because you know how much their father meant to them and how much this death affected their lives greatly.

A third characteristic of John Cassavetes’ films is that they have a lot of action in them. This makes them exciting because it makes it seem like something exciting is happening every minute of every day.

In fact, there may not be any action at all but instead there may be just one scene after another where something happens between two people or groups of people that creates conflict between them.”

Best John Cassavetes Films – Wrapping Up

John Cassavetes’ work has been described as an “intensely personal style”, and the director’s own words echo those descriptions.

In a 1971 interview with the New York Times, he stated that he was “trying to make a film about life, not about me or my family or my friends, but about people.

That’s why I put myself in the middle of it. It’s a way of trying to get at what it is to be alive” (The New York Times).

Cassavetes’ films are often considered to be among the most original and influential in modern American cinema.

The director’s style is often characterized by a combination of improvisational techniques and highly personal direction that led many critics to compare him to filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni. His best known films include Opening Night (1977), A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Husbands (1992).

 

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