John Cassavetes

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Morris Dickstein

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Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and even Taxi Driver used a good deal of loose, inconsequential action (or inaction) to work up a feeling of the New York streets…. When the action of these films finally blows, unravels, they're all the more effective for having seemed so plotless.

The lonely prophet of this kind of script and visual style—so carefully designed to look like cinéma vérité—was John Cassavetes. Particularly in films like Faces and A Woman Under the Influence, Cassavetes is a master of the hidden poetry of ungainly people, the heartrending psychopathology of everyday life. His roots are with the independent filmmakers of an earlier period, when all "technique" smacked of Hollywood slickness and artificiality, when a hand-held camera and grainy close-ups were emblems of authenticity. Yet Cassavetes surpasses the seventies directors who followed him in his ability to achieve genuinely moving moments, poignant epiphanies of individual lives. (p. 55)

Morris Dickstein, "Summing Up the Seventies: Issues," in American Film (reprinted with permission from the December issue of American Film magazine; © 1979, The American Film Institute, J. F. Kennedy Center, Washington, DC 20566), Vol. V, No. 3, December, 1979, pp. 55-8.∗

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