John Cassavetes' probing, relentless study of a middle-class married couple is regarded as the first American independent film to cross over to mainstream audiences. The film examines a seminal 36 hours in the life of Rich... more »ard and Maria Frost, during which their 14-year relationship finally falls completely apart. John Marley, Gena Rowlands« less
""Faces" carries the dubious distinction of being considered the first "breakthrough" independent American feature. "Faces" is a John Cassavetes film. It is also categorically one of the two or three greatest masterpieces of American cinema. (This is neither just a personal opinion, nor an exaggeration. This film is essential.) What makes this film so special will be lost on many domestic viewers, unfortunately, who simply aren't prepared for the experience. Nearly everything about the film is subversive of conventional Hollywood filmmaking techniques, and this is frustrating for people who aren't ready for it. For example, the film never "tells" you anything about the characters: you have to patiently observe them throughout the film, just as if they were real other people in the room. Furthermore, in typical Cassavetes' style, the characters' behavior is extreme, which can be unsettling. Finally, the film is pretty grim. However, if you're ready for a new experience, and can approach the viewing experience with an open and tolerant mind, this film will BLOW YOU AWAY.The DVD is nothing special; I'm just grateful to have the film. The transfer isn't particularly sharp, and was made off an inglorious print. Framing -- full frame -- seems fine; if I remember correctly, the original (16mm) is not widescreen, so nothing should be lost. (The odd cropping that appears throughout the film is intentional.) Highest recommendation."
All the Lonely People
Arch Llewellyn | 11/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've never seen a movie quite like this in my life! It's technically raw, the sound's bad and half the time I had no idea what was going on, but it builds to a brilliant portrait of four lonely lives. The bad jokes and laughter that eat up so much film time connect loose, rambunctious scenes that defy strict narrative logic--after a while it feels like you're watching this movie from the inside, right in the thick of the cigarettes and booze. As usual, Cassavetes shoots the '60s from unexpected angles: his focus is on the middle-aged middle managers and their fading suburban wives, stuck on the wrong side of the Sexual Revolution but still desperate to feel young and fulfilled. The movie doesn't make fun of them but brings you into their world, where disappointment, age and the pressures of conformity are finally getting the best of their vitality. Imagine "The Graduate" told from Mrs. Robinson's point of view. The powerful last scene ends in silence after a suicide attempt--no laughs, no routines. The death of a marriage or a new beginning? Cassavetes rarely matched this level of intensity. "Faces" is one of his very best."
Cassavetes film is brutally honest and realistic
Arch Llewellyn | 03/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The state of independent film today, it is safe to say, would be radically different if it weren't for the pioneering art of John Cassavetes. His unapologetically realist style, coupled with intimate cooperation with his actors and his understanding of the emotional power of improvisation, has earned him the oft-applied title: Father of Independent Film. In Faces, the most mainstream-appreciated of his work, John Marley and Lynn Carlin are a middle-aged couple of swingers, trying to fill the gaps in their emotional relationship by having spontaneous trysts with socially peripheral characters--Marley with Gena Rowlands (a prostitute) and Carlin with Seymour Cassel (a beatnik). However, they find that they cannot be as casual as they wish, and end up tangled in all new romantic involvements with their lovers, which only serves to augment the emptiness they feel in their marriage. Cassavetes' ultra-realist camera style, alternatingly far-off/detached and then extremely close to the actors' faces (hence the title) reflects the characters' emotional states and yet, at the same time, is objectively distant--a style that has been aped recently in many indie features. John Cassavetes' son Nicholas has begun making his own movies (Unhook The Stars and She's So Lovely--written by his late father) and seems to be on the road to his own well-deserved success."
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Faces, by John Cassavetes, is a 1968 film generally credited as being the first popular independent film in America to make an impact in the public consciousness. But, it is more than that. It is a film that totally subverted the dominant themes and forms of Hollywood cinema, at the time, showed that `adult' films, truly adult, not a euphemism for pornography, could have mass appeal, and paved the way for the great auteur decade of American filmmaking that was the 1970s. That things have regressed severely, since then, only shows how much a young Cassavetes is needed these days. But, it was totally different from the European auteur films of the 1960s, in that it eschewed symbolism, framing, and Post-Modern techniques of storytelling. Faces is a raw film that is laced with searing, realistic dialogue, and gives the impression that the viewer is truly eavesdropping on the private lives of people who could be them, for there are no Hollywood goddesses nor buff Adonises to be found in any scenes. And, unlike a master like Ingmar Bergman, who also focused on the inner emotional and psychological lives of individuals, Cassavetes' characters are not philosophizing nor posing in neatly framed boxes. This is not so much a criticism of the European poetic approach to film, merely to state that Cassavetes' style was far more revolutionary, and felt like actual cinema verité. In that sense, while one can argue ceaselessly over the relative excellence of certain directors, it is impossible to deny Cassavetes' importance in the pantheon of film's first century. Nor can one deny Faces' importance, at least as a landmark, if not having lasting influence in Hollywood's Lowest Common Denominator output. The film follows the demise of the fourteen year marriage of Richard and Maria Forst (John Marley and Lynn Carlin), two LA suburban children of the post-World War Two boom, at the height of American affluence, just before Vietnam, Watergate, and the 1970s allowed the Conservative movement of the 1980s send standards of living into a spiral that has yet to stem. Why are they breaking up? We are never directly told. He's the head of a large company, and she a bored housewife, and while they still have things in common, and enjoy each other- as shown in a terrific scene of the couple in bed, laughing their heads off over lame jokes Richard tells, their marriage has just died. Neither could probably pinpoint where, much less why. But, the fact that they are still chuckling over the most inane jokes, just to please one another, says it all about most relationships- that they almost all end up as zombies. That's what makes this film so real, potent, and discomfiting. Contrast this to the Hollywood paradigm of the mid-1960s, Doris Day comedies, when the film was first started, and the difference is stark....But, the real stars of this film are the writing and acting. Cassavetes reaches Chekhovian heights of drama, admixed with Tennessee Williams' poetic realism, in his Oscar nominated Best Original Screenplay. It is truly among the greatest screenplays ever written, even if, as rumored, there was much improvisation in the dialogue. Here, for one of the few times on screen or stage, one gets to see the actor as creator, not merely collaborator. Lynn Carlin, in her first film role, is authentic as the clueless abandoned wife, and got an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress. Seymour Cassel, as he lover, is also fantastic, as a gigolo with a soft side, and also got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Gena Rowlands, as the prostitute, is neither victim nor saint, just a real person struggling with real problems, and gives her usual great performance, as one of the great actresses of all time in film. But, this film is dominated, from start to finish, by the towering performance of John Marley. How many of us have worked for a son of a bitch like him? How many women know a bastard like him? How many men reading this are a Richard Forst? The supporting actors- Fred Draper as Richard's drunken pal Freddie, Val Avery as the drunken Jim McCarthy, Dorothy Gulliver as Florence, the old lady Chet deigns to kiss, when she drunkenly pleads for affection- are uniformly terrific, as well. The title of the film is based upon the notion that we all act in ways that are mere role playing for others, mere faces, and this has never been more true than in this film. A more apt title, though, might have been Personae, but since Bergman's singular Persona had recently been released, to great acclaim, this title suffices. No scene better and more aptly depicts why it suffices than in the terrific, nearly twenty minute opening scene, after the title sequence, which hints at the fact that, as Bergman was doing in that era, this film may all be a film some of the characters are watching, as a presentation to Forst as `the Dolce Vita of the commercial field.' That this meta-narrative aspect has not been commented on by many critics I find curious, but understandable, since no more than two or three minutes into the nearly twenty minutes that follow, we are given a bravura performance of drunkenness never before equaled, for its realism, onscreen. The strengths of this film are so many and so potent that things that in other films that would be weaknesses, such as fashions and dated slang, become strengths for this film has not dated. Its characters are as fresh as they were four decades ago, even if the film, itself, serves as a time capsule of the 1960s, yet one that is timeless. "
Not Your Mainstream Film
Glenn Gallagher | Sacramento, CA | 03/30/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I thought Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence" was brilliant, but I'm sorry to say I only lasted 20 minutes into Faces before turning it off. I know it is supposed to be ground-breaking, influential, a masterpiece, etcetera, but I just could not take the annoying characters any longer. The first 20 minutes appeared to be some improvisational piece that had over-stayed its welcome.
I respect what Cassavetes did for American independent film, but I think you really have to love experimental film to enjoy Faces."