John Cassavetes has been called a genius, a visionary, and the father of independent film. But such 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. Populated by beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, and children, the films are beautiful, emotional testaments to compassion. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—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, as well as Charles Kiselyak’s 2000 documentary A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes.
COLLECTOR'S SET INCLUDES:
United States • 1959 • 81 minutes • Black and White • 1.33:1 • English
John Cassavetes’ directorial debut revolves around an interracial romance between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman living in New York City with her two brothers, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship crumbles when Tony meets Lelia’s brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd), a talented dark-skinned jazz singer struggling to find work, and discovers the truth about Lelia’s racial heritage. Shot on location in Manhattan with a cast and crew made up primarily of amateurs, Cassavetes’ Shadows is a visionary work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.
United States • 1968 • 130 minutes • Black and White • 1.66:1 • English
The disintegration of a marriage is dissected in John Cassavetes’ searing Faces. Shot in high-contrast 16 mm black and white, the film follows the futile attempts of captain of industry Richard (John Marley) and his wife, Maria (Lynn Carlin), to escape the anguish of their empty marriage in the arms of others. Featuring astonishingly powerful, nervy performances from Marley, Carlin, and Cassavetes regulars Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel, Faces confronts suburban alienation and the battle of the sexes with a brutal honesty and compassion rarely matched in cinema.
United States • 1974 • 155 minutes • Color • 1.85:1 • English
John Cassavetes’ devastating drama details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. Starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands (in two of the most harrowing screen performances of the 1970s) as a married couple deeply in love yet unable to express that love in terms the other can understand, the film is an uncompromising portrait of domestic turmoil. The Criterion Collection is proud to present one of the benchmark films of American independent cinema—a heroic document from a true maverick director.
United States • 1976 • 135 minutes • Color • 1.85:1 • English
John Cassavetes engages film noir in his own inimitable style with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays gentlemen’s club owner Cosmo Vitelli, a man dedicated to pretenses of composure and self-possession. When he runs afoul of a group of gangsters, Cosmo is forced to commit a horrible crime in a last-ditch effort to save his beloved club and his way of life. Suspenseful, mesmerizing, and idiosyncratic, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a thought-provoking examination of desperation and masculine identity..
United States • 1976 • 144 minutes • Color • 1.66:1 • English
Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) rehearses for her latest play, about a woman unable to admit that she is aging. When she witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, she begins to confront the personal and professional turmoil she faces in her own life. Featuring a moving performance by Rowlands (and with some scenes shot on stages with live audiences reacting freely to the writing and performing), John Cassavetes’ Opening Night exposes the drama of an actress who at great personal cost makes a part her own.
United States • 2000 • 200 minutes • Color • 1.33:1 • English
Charles Kiselyak’s A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes is a detailed journey through the career of one of film’s greatest pioneers and iconoclasts. Assembled from candid interviews with Cassavetes’ collaborators and friends, rare photographs, archival footage, and the director’s own words, the film paints a revealing portrait of a man whose fierce love, courage, and dedication changed the face of cinema forever.
SPECIAL-EDITION EIGHT-DISC BOX SET:
- New high-definition digital transfers of all films, with restored image and sound, and, where applicable, enhanced for widescreen televisions
- More than two hours of new video interviews with Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Lelia Goldoni, Gena Rowlands, and Al Ruban
- Two versions of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie: Cassavetes’ original 135-minute, on home video for the first time, as well as his subsequent 108-minute re-edit
- Faces alternate opening: 17 minutes of footage not included in Cassavetes’ final cut
- Cinéastes de notre temps: an episode from the French television series, dedicated to Cassavetes
- Workshop footage: rare silent clips from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop, from which Shadows emerged
- Audio commentary on A Woman Under the Influence by sound recordist and composer Bo Harwood and camera operator Mike Ferris
- Restoration demonstration for Shadows
- Audio interviews with Cassavetes by film historians Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson
- Lighting and Shooting the Film: a study of the techniques and equipment used on Faces by Al Ruban
- Stills galleries: rare behind-the-scenes photos, publicity shots, and posters
- Biographical sketches of the actors Cassavetes frequently cast in his films, written by Tom Chartity (John Cassavetes: Lifeworks)
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
- Plus: a 68-page book featuring new essays on Cassavetes and the films by writers/critics Gary Giddins, Stuart Klawans, Kent Jones, Philip Lopate, Dennis Lim, and director Charles Kiselyak, as well as reprinted writings by and interviews with Cassavetes, and tributes to Cassavetes by director Martin Scorsese, Cassavetes’ secretary Elaine Kagan, and novelist Jonathan Lethem