Sunday, July 09, 2006

Faces (1968)

I don't think I can improve on this film's assessment of itself (in the meta-cinematic opening) as "an impressionistic document that shocks." The improvisatory acting is extraordinary on all counts, as one would expect given the reputation of writer/director John Cassavetes; what surprised me was the technical strides he made in between 1959's Shadows and this. Faces has the loose and shambling feel of Shadows but without the directorial roughness -- this film is beautiful to watch even if you're not into the characters. The camerawork, in particular, is so strong that it feels like an extra character through whose eyes we see the goings-on; the hazy, expressive lensing perfectly complements the boozy dark-night-of-the-soul vibe that Cassavetes is mining here. Too, the sound is just about perfect, as we see Cassavetes making the most of chaos and overlapping dialogue (he's definitely nailed the way drunks and emotional midgets communicate) a couple years before Robert Altman blew up large doing the same thing. On the story front... well, there isn't much of one (it's a film of incidents), but the characters are pathetic without being dull -- they're struggling to find their own happiness but too often settle for merely drowning their sorrows in cheap booze and cheaper sex. Somehow both really talky and completely cinematic, this immense study of ruined relationships and missed connections is great in all senses of the word.

Grade: A-


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