John Cassavetes Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Minnie and Moskowitz] is by far John Cassavetes' worst film, with none of the good touches of Faces, without even any of the pseudo inquiry of Husbands. Guess what the theme is. Two lonely people! Misfits! Who find each other!! Even Chayefsky gave up this facile honesty twenty years ago.

He's a Very Human car-park in New York. But not just a carpark, of course; he's really searching. He searches on out to L.A. where he meets this Very Human girl. She, too, is searching, can't communicate, is a sexual object to men who merely use her, and is battered by life but is still golden, deep down inside. (p. 24)

Cassavetes boasts that his film is an "upper." What's chiefly wrong with it is that you know from the beginning that it was made to be an upper. A down-beat ending would by no means be the only truthful one for the story, but from the start you know that every vicissitude in the film is designed to make the up-beat ending glow.

The camera style is Cassavetes' usual "spying," a method intended to make everything look like reality observed but that only emphasizes the presence of photography. (When will the "truthful-cinema" types learn that reality in films means working for the camera, not trying to pretend that it isn't there?) Cassavetes' script is analagous. It tries to sound improvised and perhaps is, in part, but its sweaty efforts to "disappear" only make it stick out—excursions, doodlings, and all. (p. 32)

Stanley Kauffmann, "From a Star to a Czar" (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1972 by Stanley Kauffmann), in The New Republic, Vol. 166, No. 4, January 22, 1972, pp. 24, 32-3.