Where Does It Happen? John Cassavetes and Cinema at the Breaking Point

Where Does It Happen? John Cassavetes and Cinema at the Breaking Point

Where Does It Happen? John Cassavetes and Cinema at the Breaking Point

Where Does It Happen? John Cassavetes and Cinema at the Breaking Point

Synopsis

"A good movie," John Cassavetes has remarked, "will ask you questions you don't already know the answers to." And in his films, Cassavetes is as good as his word. Taking up the radical question that Cassavetes' films consistently pose-specifically, where is the line between actor and character, fiction and reality, film and life?-George Kouvaros reveals the unique, and uniquely illuminating, position that Cassavetes' work occupies at the intersection of filmmaking and film theory.

Central to any understanding of Cassavetes' achievement is the issue of performance. Looking at the work of Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, and Cassavetes himself in films such as Faces, A Woman under the Influence, and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Kouvaros shows how performative instances-gestures, words, or glances-open up intimations of dramas belonging neither strictly to these films nor to the everyday worlds in which they are immersed.

A major reassessment of the filmmaker as a formal experimenter, Where Does It Happen? gives Cassavetes his due as a filmmaker whose critical place in the modern cinema is only now becoming clear.

George Kouvaros is senior lecturer in the School of Theatre, Film, and Dance at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Excerpt

Cassavetes is his own “new wave.”

—Parker Tyler, “For Shadows, against Pull My Daisy

Family Life

It remains at first only a vague sensation. Two brothers—one dark-skinned, the other light—are crowded into their sister's tiny bedroom. To get to the bathroom Hugh (Hugh Hurd) and Benny (Ben Carruthers) must pass through Lelia's (Lelia Goldoni) room. The room is barely big enough to accommodate the bed on which Lelia is propped, smoking a cigarette. Despite the physical compression, the siblings are operating at a distance from one another, talking at cross-purposes. While Benny, the younger brother, relays a story about “Bird” to Lelia, Hugh is more concerned with the aftereffects of his sister's disastrous date the night before. Only when Lelia loses her temper with Benny does the issue of race come into focus. “Just a problem with the races, that's all…Nothing you'd be interested in.” Hugh's explanation to Benny goes to the heart of the tension that hangs over this scene and, at the same time, deflects it, refusing an extended enunciation or uncovering of a problem or social issue. Here as elsewhere in Cassavetes's films, the exact nature of the relations . . .

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