This boxed set includes the following titles: ? Shadows (1959) 81 min. B&W. 1.33:1 aspect ratio ? Faces (1968) 130 min. B&W. 1.66:1 aspect ratio ? A Woman Under the Influence (1974) 147 min. Color. 1.85:1 aspect ratio ? Th... more »e Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) 135 min. Color. 1.85:1 aspect ratio ? Opening Night (1977) 144 min. Color. 1.66:1 aspect ratio ? A Constant Forge (2000) 200 min. Color. 1.33:1 aspect ratio John Cassavetes has been called a genius, a visionary, and the father of independent film. But all this rhetoric threatens to obscure the humanism and generosity of his art. The five films included here represent his self-financed works made outside the studio system of Hollywood, on which he was afforded complete control. While about beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, and children, all of them are beautiful, emotional testaments to compassion. Cassavetes has often been called an actor's director, but this body of work?astoundingly, even greater than the sum of its extraordinarily significant parts?reveals him to be an audience's director. The Criterion Collection is proud to present Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night in stunning new transfers. Includes Charles Kiselyak's A Constant Forge, a candid biographical documentary on the life and work of Cassavetes .« less
"John Cassavetes was an artist who believed that filmmaking's salvation lay in "individual expression" and applied this belief to his own movies. He is often credited as the father of American independent cinema and to be sure without him there would be no Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch or John Sayles. For years, fans of Cassavetes' movies have had to suffer with grainy copies and substandard transfers on DVD (or, quite often no availability at all). The folks at Criterion have answered their prayers with a fantastic box set with five of the man's movies and Charles Kiselyak's epic documentary.
The Shadows disc features an interview with one of the film's stars, Lelia Goldini, who talks about how she met Cassavetes and her impressions of the man. She also covers the improv exercises that he would stage and how they developed into the movie. There is also an interview with Seymour Cassel who reminisces about how he met Cassavetes and how he got a job on the crew making Shadows. A real find is never-before-seen silent footage of rehearsals for the film in Cassavetes' acting workshop. Also included is featurette examining the painstaking restoration process that transformed the original print into this new glorious version. Finally, there is an excellent behind-the-scenes still gallery and a trailer.
Faces features an alternate opening sequence that was originally screened in Toronto and rearranges the chronology of scenes. "Cineastes de Notre Temps" is a French TV program that interviewed Cassavetes in '65 while he was making Faces and then again in '68 after it had been screened. The first interview finds him in a playful mood as he jokes about making a musical of Crime and Punishment. In the second interview he claims that he's the worst director but tries to create an environment that allows the actors to express themselves honestly. "Making Faces" is a 42-minute featurette with new interviews with Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel and editor/producer Al Ruban. Rowlands talks about how they financed the movie themselves so they'd have complete control while Cassel talks about how Cassavetes was his best friend and mentor. Finally, Ruban discusses the equipment he used to shoot the film in the "Lighting and Shooting the Film" featurette. He goes through specific scenes via text and clips from the movie providing excellent insight into how certain techniques were achieved.
A Woman Under the Influence features an audio commentary by cameraman Mike Ferris and sound recordist/composer Bo Harwood. This movie marked the first time they worked together and they would go on to collaborate with Cassavetes on The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night. Next up, is an excellent conversation between Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk. They talk about Cassavetes' approach to filmmaking and fondly recount anecdotes about making the movie. There is also an audio interview done with Cassavetes in `75 that covers a wide variety of topics: improvisation, casting, directing and so forth. Rounding out the disc is a trailer and a rare collection of behind-the-scenes photos taken on the set of the movie.
Included on The Killing of a Chinese Bookie disc is the original 135 minute version released in `76 and the truncated 108 minute version that came out in '78. The first version was rush job and became a commercial and critical failure. It was pulled from theatres after a week and two years later Cassavetes cut almost 30 minutes out and re-released it. There is a fascinating interview with Ben Gazzara and Al Ruban. The actor recounts how the first audience to see the movie hated it and this broke his heart. Ruban also talks about the negative reaction and Cassavetes' desire to re-cut his movie as a result. There is another audio interview with Cassavetes where he talks at length about working in genres and how he got the idea for the movie. Finally, there is a collection of rare, behind-the-scenes photographs.
Opening Night features a conversation between Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara. They speak warmly and fondly about their experiences working on the movie, recounting several stories. There is also an interview with Al Ruban who talks about Cassavetes complete immersion in every aspect of his movies: sets, costumes and so on. There is another audio interview with Cassavetes where he talks about the play that occurs within the film and comparing movies to plays. Finally, there is a trailer.
Cassavetes fiercely believed that "to compromise an idea is to soften it, to make an excuse for it, to betray it." The five films that are included in this box set certainly adhere to these words and represent the man's pure and unfiltered artistic expression. This is an impressive box set that also includes a 68-page booklet with essays by Cassavetes and critics and interviews with the man that does a great job putting his movies and personal philosophy into the proper context."
Criterion's most amazing collection to date
Steward Willons | Illinois | 06/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Cassavetes - Five Films is, perhaps, Criterion's most ambitious project to date. The box set is absolutely amazing. Other reviews have done a good job of explaining the extras, so I won't repeat that information. The topic of Ray Carney has been the focus of much anger and frustration amongst Cassavetes fans and deserves some explanation. It is my understanding that Carney, the foremost Cassavetes scholar and author of "Cassavetes on Cassavetes", was almost solely responsible for the creation of this collection. He had a hand in everything and the set is the result of much hard work. His name was left off of the set at the last minute because of a dispute with Cassavetes' wife, Gena Rowlands. Ray Carney felt, as any scholar should, that the truth was important and did not make any attempt to hide any of the negative aspects of Cassavetes's life. This was completely unacceptable to Rowlands who threatened to kill the project unless Carney's name was removed completely. This also included the omission of several audio commentaries provided by Carney. What a shame! Contrary to the highly specious "documentary", A Constant Forge, Cassavetes was no saint. Who cares? Well, Gena Rowlands does.
Everything about this set is quite impressive. The book contains many thoughtful essays and insights into these complex and sometimes difficult films. The only weakness is the worthless "documentary". Don't be fooled - Charles Kiselyak is no Cassavetes scholar. Supposedly, he had never even heard of Cassavetes before he began filming. Again, Ray Carney provided all the factual information, which Kiselyak decided to discard in favor of crafting an "inspirational" narrative. A Constant Forge frequently feels more like a bizarre attempted beatification than an objective study of a real person. For those wishing to be disabused, check out Carney's excellent book, "Cassavetes on Cassavetes". Cassavetes never really sat down and wrote a lot about his life or work, but Carney spent years compiling every scrap of information available, forming a chronological narrative. He alternates Cassavetes's passages with what actually happened. Cassavetes was prone to exaggeration to the extreme. A lot of what he says is an outright fabrication, but that shouldn't diminish the importance of his films.
All this controversy really misses the point. These are amazing films that continue to influence filmmakers all over the world. Criterion did an excellent job and their handling of the Carney/Rowlands issue shouldn't hinder your enjoyment of this set in the slightest. It is a wonderful introduction to one of the most important American directors and belongs on every film connoisseur's shelf. Buy without hesitation."
Keeping It Real
Will | 10/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
I find it both ironic and strangely appropriate that "John Cassavetes: Five Films" was released on the same day as "Star Wars Trilogy" by George Lucas. These represent two of the most diametrically opposed styles of filmmaking ever screened: the bloated, glitzy and ultimately shallow films of Lucas against the lean, scrappy and completely fulfilling films of Cassavetes.
For those who are not familiar with John Cassavetes, this set will introduce you to the work of one of film's greatest artists. The authenticity and honesty of Cassavetes' approach to filmmaking are apparent in every shot. These films are as cutting-edge and fresh today as they were thirty years ago and they will make you think and feel in ways you never have before.
For those who know and love the work of Cassavetes, this set is a much-welcome improvement over previous releases. I can't say enough about the quality of the transfers. The extras are generous and informative and they help give a better understanding of the man behind the camera and his revolutionary filmmaking techniques.
Although this set would have been further enhanced by the inclusion of the legendary first version of Shadows as well as commentary tracks and essays by Professor Ray Carney (the world's leading Cassavetes scholar), "John Cassavetes: Five Films" stands alone as the best introduction/compilation of Cassavetes' work and is an important addition to any film library.
Behind the scenes
Matt Reed | 03/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although it is great having the Criterion collection of Cassavetes' films, it is sadly incomplete without commentary by Ray Carney, noted film scholar, historian and world expert on the life and art of Cassavetes. It is a shame that Carney's material was either uncredited or cut out just prior to release.
To verify the facts behind Gena Rowlands's treatment of Ray Carney and the facts about Carney's discovery of new prints of John Cassavetes' Shadows and Faces, go to Ray Carney's web site, easily found through any search engine. Click on the "Ray Carney's Artistic Discoveries" button at the bottom of the "John Cassavetes Pages." The menu will take you to essays that cover every detail about Carney's cinematic discoveries, the responses of the world's press to them, and Rowlands's responses to them and treatment of Carney in the Criterion matter.
I highly recommend the box set. And, even if Carney's commentary and essays were removed from the Criterion box set, don't forget that you can still read excerpts from his essays about Cassavetes on his site and can buy one of his books about Cassavetes, including his amazing Cassavetes on Cassavetes, his John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity, and his Shadows books, on this site. Carney knows more about Cassavetes than anyone on the planet. It's the ideal way to view the films--with Carney at your side, whispering in your ear.
R. Wilson | North Bend, WA USA | 09/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thank you, Criterion-- you've done it again. An incredible contrast to the awful Pioneer "special editions" still on the market. Get this set now. What emerges is not just Cassavetes' incredible body of work, but in the 3-hour-plus documentary and the numerous vintage pieces, audio interviews, etc., we get a sense of the greatness of this flawed human being. His life and personality (as it comes through in the supplements) are inspiring enough to stand on their own, but placed in context, this set is both a bargain and a spiritual necessity for anyone who loves movies."