John Cassavetes: Five Films (BLU-RAY)

John Cassavetes: Five Films (BLU-RAY)

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US Import

John Cassavetes was a genius, a visionary, and the progenitor of American independent film, but that doesn’t begin to get at the generosity of his art. A former theater actor fascinated by the power of improvisation, Cassavetes brought his search for truth in performance to the screen. The five films in this collection—all of which the director maintained total control over by financing them himself and making them outside the studio system—are electrifying and compassionate creations, populated by all manner of humanity: beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, children. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts—shows him to be an audience’s director.

SHADOWS:

John Cassavetes’s directorial debut revolves around a romance in New York City between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light- skinned black woman, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship is put in jeopardy when Tony meets Lelia’s darker-skinned jazz singer brother, Hugh (Hugh Hurd), and discovers that her racial heritage is not what he thought it was. Shot on location in Manhattan with a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, Shadows is a penetrating work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes (2000), a 200-minute documentary by Charles Kiselyak (Blu-ray)
  • New interviews with actress Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel
  • Silent footage from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop, from which Shadows emerged
  • Restoration demonstration
  • Stills and poster galleries
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1961 article by Cassavetes (DVD release)

New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

FACES:

John Cassavetes puts a disintegrating marriage under the microscope in the searing Faces. Shot in high-contrast 16 mm black and white, the film follows the futile attempts of the captain of industry Richard (John Marley) and his wife, Maria (Lynn Carlin), to escape the anguish of their empty relationship in the arms of others. Featuring astonishingly nervy performances from Marley, Carlin, and Cassavetes regulars Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel, Faces confronts modern alienation and the battle of the sexes with a brutal honesty and compassion rarely matched in cinema.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, high-definition digital restoration, with newly restored uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Alternate eighteen-minute opening sequence
  • Episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps from 1968, dedicated to director John Cassavetes
  • Making “Faces”, a 2004 documentary featuring interviews with actors Seymour Cassel, Lynn Carlin, and Gena Rowlands and director of photography Al Ruban
  • Al Ruban on Lighting and Shooting “Faces,” a new program featuring commentary by Ruban (Blu-ray); Lighting & Shooting the Film, a study of the techniques and equipment used on Faces by Al Ruban (DVD)
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Stuart Klawans (DVD release)

New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE:

This uncompromising portrait of domestic turmoil details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk give unforgettably harrowing performances as a married couple deeply in love but unable to express their ardor in terms the other can understand. This landmark American film is perhaps the most beloved work from the extraordinary John Cassavetes.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, high-definition digital restoration, with newly restored uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by sound recordist and composer Bo Harwood and camera operator Mike Ferris
  • New video conversation between actors Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk
  • Audio interview with director John Cassavetes from 1975
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Kent Jones and an interview with Cassavetes from 1975 (DVD release)

New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE:

John Cassavetes engages with film noir in his own inimitable style with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays a gentleman’s club owner, Cosmo Vitelli, desperately committed to maintaining a facade of suave gentility despite the seediness of his environment and his own unhealthy appetites. When he runs afoul of loan sharks, Cosmo must carry out a terrible crime or lose his way of life. Mesmerizing and idiosyncratic, the film is a provocative examination of masculine identity. It is presented here in two versions: Cassavetes’s original 1976 edit and his 1978 one, nearly thirty minutes shorter.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, high-definition digital restorations of the 1976 and 1978 versions of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview program featuring actor Ben Gazzara and producer Al Ruban
  • Audio interview with Cassavetes from the 1970s
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

OPENING NIGHT:

While in the midst of rehearsals for her latest play, Broadway actor Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, after which she begins to confront the chaos of her own life. Headlined by a virtuoso performance by Rowlands, John Cassavetes’s Opening Night lays bare the drama of a performer who, at great personal cost, makes a part her own, and it functions as a metaphor for the director’s singular, wrenched-from-the-heart creative method.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New conversation between actors Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara
  • New interview with producer and director of photography Al Ruban
  • Audio interview with director John Cassavetes from the 1970s
  • Trailers
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

A CONSTANT FORGE:

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 FEATURES

  • Biographical sketches of the actors Cassavetes used in many of his films, written by Tom Charity (John Cassavetes: Lifeworks)
  • Poster gallery for Cassavetes’ Faces, Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing