IMDb Polls

Poll: Tribute to John Cassavetes (1929-1989)

90 years ago in December 1929, the legendary actor, writer and director John Cassavetes, one of the eight thespians to be nominated in these three categories, was born in New York City, to Greek-American parents.

30 years later, in 1959, his directorial debut Shadows (1958) was released in US theaters, making him the figurehead of independent cinema and starting the incongruous but lasting myth that his movies were all improvised.

And 30 years ago, in February 1989, the legend died of cirrhosis leaving a unique legacy inspiring many young film-makers who lacked resources but not creativity, with enough guts, vision and talent to carry it to the screen without ever compromising their personal truths.

Celebrating the triple milestone year, which of these movies directed by John Cassavetes* is your favorite? (or would you most like to discover?)

For a lengthier introduction of Cassavetes' style and legacy and a discussion about the list, click here

I decided not to include Big Trouble (1986) for many reasons: the film was made for money and was immediately dismissed by Cassavetes himself, Love Streams (1984) is often regarded as his real swan-song. Finally, I replaced it with Mikey and Nicky (1976), a film that is so close to the usual style of Cassavetes it could be part of his own body of work and his pairing with Peter Falk is just too irresistible. So the decision may sound arbitrary but what would be a Cassavetes poll without a little improvisation?

Make Your Choice

  1. Vote!

    Faces (1968)

    "Faces" faces bourgeois boredom with the acuity of a telescopic mirror. Through voyeuristic close-ups and shots on people laughing, shouting, and indulging to the crassest behavior, it unveils both the hypocrisy and the desperation underneath the rug of respectability, sometimes confining to sheer desperation. "Faces" plays a cathartic role, allowing us to stand back and realize that these "faces" are nothing else but ours.
  2. Vote!

    A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

    How a woman's desperate need for love triggers the craziest and most unpredictable situations? Cassavetes' masterpiece is a voyage into the pathos of a child-like woman but so driven by a need to exist that she makes her own family existence an emotional rollercoaster, turning what should have been your average family drama into one helluva thriller, served by one of the best female performances ever.
  3. Vote!

    Shadows (1958)

    The movie preceded "Breathless", the so-called film that invented modern cinema. Same quick cuts, jazzy music and unpredictable dialogue, but there's a fundamental nuance. By distancing himself from cinema, Godard was the most cinematic of all and was too "extraordinary" to fool today's viewers, Cassavetes liberated himself from these conventions and made something so "ordinary" it took a while before realizing his genius.
  4. Vote!

    Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

    As a rom-com, the film generate the laughs but most are directed at us, in the way they deconstruct every cinematic archetypes and underline the peculiarity of this "odd" couple. And the romance is governed by the director's narrative trademark of unpredictability so that any actual gag can only feel accidental, as Seymour Cassel says in one of my all-time favorite quotes: "When you think of yourself of funny, you become tragic".
  5. Vote!

    Husbands (1970)

    "Husbands" becomes an irreverent masterpiece if you take it as a self-reflexive approach to male middle-age crisis, with all the confusion and hunger for gratuitous transgression that can tickle men castrated by marriage and economical comfort. The direction, the script, the acting is as abrupt, awkward and rebellious as its leading trio. Besides what would you expect from Cassavetes released with his two buddies: Falk and Gazzara?
  6. Vote!

    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

    The story of a nightclub-owner coerced to kill is Cassavetes' allegory of his own suffocation while harassed by a system trying to prevent him from doing his job. He translated these frustrations into a neo-noir film that stands out on its own thriller regardless of any symbolism with a magistral Gazzara as a man who wishes only one thing, enjoy the light of happiness while living comfortably in his chosen obscurity.
  7. Vote!

    Opening Night (1977)

    Theater, like shy people, dreads improvisation because it can't handle unpredictability. Unlike theater, life allows mistakes for it doesn't give a chance of repetition or preparation, in a way, improvisation serves as its best allegory. Cassavetes proves that art needn't be shy, whether a play or a movie. And overcoming awkward silences and boos, the stage transcends it basic artistic function and art becomes life.
  8. Vote!

    Love Streams (1984)

    The word 'streams' refers to a movement, that follow either a linear or tortuous road, this is what love is about, it's in motion. And as in most Cassavetes' film, "Love Streams" can only be driven by a desperate need to reach someone. But there's a new dimension: only when love is granted as between the two siblings that they can't just be intimate and embrace. You act when you play a role, that's the essence of cinema, of life.
  9. Vote!

    Gloria (1980)

    "Gloria" is probably the only Cassavetes' film that relies on a formula and the most likely to disorient the fans. Still, it's the one that earned Gena Rowlands, the most defining face of the filmography, her second nomination for an Oscar, as if Cassavetes, aware that he wasn't probably making the highlight of his career, let the events flow naturally and serve as a vehicle for Rowlands' natural talent and so bad-ass maternal instinct.
  10. Vote!

    A Child Is Waiting (1963)

    Set in an institution, the film renders with more or less efficiency the harrowing pain and discomfort the sight of troubled and emotionally disturbed children can inspire, with shades of optimism carried by Judy Garland's attempts to reach them. While the film sins by being too preachy, the camera of Cassavetes handles the hardest part, eliciting natural performances from the children and earning our immediate sympathy.
  11. Vote!

    Too Late Blues (1961)

    Cassavetes learns how to compose with the wide ranges of human emotions like so many notes on a jazzman's partition with a fascinating mix of razor-sharp precision and cool jazzy detachment. But the virtuosity that made "Shadows" such a revolutionary classic, pulverizing cinematic grounds, seemed to lack in in "Too Late Blues", a sincere story but without that face-slapping intensity that became the director's trademark.
  12. Vote!

    Mikey and Nicky (1976)

    The closest to a Cassavetes style a film could ever come to, a vitriolic friendship confronted to the imminence of death. Cassavetes and Falk can't afford fooling around like they did in "Husbands" yet this is an unprecedented case that can only unleash the best, worst and silliest of both. An iconoclast New Hollywood thriller that broke many codes and allowed the talented Elaine May to finally subvert the myth of male friendship.

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