Friday, 15 March 2013

Faces [1968]

Though his debut directorial venture Shadows earned John Cassavetes considerable acclaim, Faces was quite easily the breakthrough film in his career as an independent filmmaker; in fact, it was a seminal work in the Indie movement in America. Shot in cinéma vérité style in grainy B/W on 16-mm camera, made on an ultra-low budget and in a highly improvisational manner, and set over the course of a single day and night, the film focused on the disintegration of the marriage of an upscale middle-aged couple. Richard Forst (John Marley), a wealthy corporate honcho, and his lovely wife Maria (Lynn Carlin) are in a state of marital ennui while in the fourteenth year of their marriage, despite being, on the surface, cordial and even friendly to each other. Their emotional disenchantment becomes further stark when he has a casual fling with an attractive escort (Gena Rowlands) while she has a near fatal tryst with a goofy gigolo (Seymour Cassel) – upon Richard shocking her with his want for a divorce, over the course of the same night. Though Richard returns the following morning to her, his male pride is severely hurt when he finds his wife with the younger guy; this doesn’t just provide the death knell for their marriage which was anyway fragile, it also brilliantly depicted the ingrained societal hypocrisy towards matters of fidelity of a man vis-à-vis a woman. The rambling narrative, non-scripted approach, lack of conventional plot cohesion, rough texture and use of extreme close-ups as an aesthetic choice, however, ensured that it wasn't easy viewing even if it’s here and now feel was unavoidable.

Director: John Cassavetes
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Marriage Drama
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Yes indeed Shubhajit, it's probably the most celebrated 'improvisational' film ever made, and it does resonate better on re-viewing. But I must say the most valid disclaimers you offer up in the final sentence of this exceptional capsule estimation does define my general view of the film, even with later revisions. It's such an emotionally distancing film -though deliberately so- that it is never much fun taking in.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam for sharing your candid reception of the film. Yes, I completely agree that this is an emotionally distancing film. So, even if from an objective standpoint I found this an important film with undeniable artistic merit, subjectively speaking I too might not want to revisit this anytime soon.