Gena Rowlands

Rosemarys Baby John Cassavetes

The 1980s proved a difficult time for many notable American directors of the 1960s and 70s. Sure, filmmakers like Altman and Coppola came out on the other side of the decade with renewed vigor, and at least one – Scorsese – even managed to arguably realize some of the most interesting work of his career. But for others, the 1980s were a lost and endless horizon of work that was hard to come by compounded by life circumstances that were even harder to endure. Difficult men who lived hard and felt deeply now found themselves confronted with their most profound personal and professional limitations. After trying to reform himself in the wake of drug addiction and a damaged reputation, Hal Ashby died of pancreatic cancer in December 1988. Just over a month later, renowned independent filmmaker, theater director, writer, and actor John Cassavetes passed away of cirrhosis of the liver. Cassavetes was supposed to die five years earlier, when he received a prognosis that he had only six months to live. Faced with almost certain death, Cassavetes composed a wrenching, beautiful and deeply personal swan song titled Love Streams about an aging alcoholic socialite reconnecting with his estranged sister, played by his wife Gena Rowlands. The dramatist would produce another film (Big Trouble, which he disowned) and stage a play after outlasting his doctor’s prediction, but Love Streams remains Cassavetes’ decisive magnum opus, both a thematic summation of his career in film and an indication of how his lifelong approach to filmmaking […]

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Over Under - Large

Today is Valentine’s Day, and a big part of what that entails is time spent thinking about the one you adore. And, for me, it means thinking about romantic movies. So what has happened is I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my current mancrush Ryan Gosling, what films he’s done that explore the concepts of love and romance, and how I feel about each of them. And surprise, surprise, a column idea sprung forth. Today I’ll be looking at The Notebook, a film that a lot of people respond to very strongly, a film that most every girl you know loves, and a film that’s an instant panty dropper when thrown into casual conversations with hormonal coeds. Also, I’ll be looking at Lars and the Real Girl, a movie that’s well regarded among the people that have seen it, but that was too strange for many moviegoers to take a chance on, or for any mainstream award shows to champion. And also, it’s a movie that can mean instant death if you try to explain it to a girl in a bar.

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Come out here, Mabel. This column took some time off (thus calling into question its title), but it comes back strong with an unusual advertisement for an unusual John Cassavetes movie. Peter Falk stars here as the husband of a woman with mental problems (played stunningly by Gena Rowlands). At first, the story was going to be a play, but it was Rowlands who convinced Cassavetes to write it as a screenplay because she claimed the role was too emotionally draining to force an actress to do night after night. It’s a pure passion project which found Cassavetes mortgaging his home to finance and found him lugging it from theater to theater himself after completion because he didn’t have a distributor. Thankfully, An up-and-comer named Martin Scorsese took a liking to his work and threatened to pull Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore from a New York City film festival unless they accepted A Woman Under the Influence. A close call for a film which garnered two Oscar nominations including Best Director and Best Lead Actress.

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