John Cassavetes Introduction - Essay

Introduction

John Cassavetes 1929–

American director, actor, screenwriter, and producer.

Cassavetes dramatizes an intimate view of reality in sensitive, experimental films. While not always popular successes, they bear the mark of a director intensely involved with his material.

Cassavetes's outstanding acting ability led to a teaching position at an actors's workshop. The exercises he did with his students developed the style of his first film, Shadows. It brought Cassavetes recognition as a director, and was hailed as a breakthrough in underground film technique.

Under contract with Paramount, he produced two films, Too Late Blues and A Child Is Waiting, the latter completed by Stanley Kramer. Neither film was particularly well received, and Cassavetes opted for an independent filmmaking career. Both Faces and Husbands, his next films, focused on the unhappy, insular people of middle-class America. In Faces, Cassavetes analyzes "the millions of marriages that just sort of glide along." A biting study of communication breakdown, it was regarded as a highly personal depiction of marital strife. Continuing the theme of marital dissension, A Woman Under the Influence is seen by some critics to be strongly influenced by the writings of R. D. Laing. It seems to be the culmination of concepts hinted at in the two previous films.

Cassavetes's best work effectively studies the depths of emotion that people find inexpressible. However, in less successful films, such as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, his techniques are considered merely actors's exercises rather than intimate, controlled directorial works. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)