Friday, December 18, 2009

Opening Night (1977)

John Cassavetes film from the auteur era about Gena Rowlands as a stage actress coping with her looming age. Not quite as improv based as some of his other work, but definitely shows his fascination with the ways in which people interact. Here, the relationships on display, between Rowlands and her romantically interested co-star (Cassavetes), her overbearing director (Ben Gazarra), and her own youthful alter-ego, are all very complicated and extremely enriching and believable. Cassavetes, in particular, rocks his scenes as a supporting player who, much like Rowlands, uses his work to shield his own emotions, and Gazarra gives a terrifying portrait of a manipulative director who will say or do anything to protect his particular vision.

Rowlands, like in Woody Allen's Another Woman and countless other films, gives a thorough and thought out portrayal of a woman dealing with her age. As an actress, her character does not have the cushion of paranoia to blame her stress on; her face, and the beauty assigned with it, represents her livelihood and her public image. It's a tough role, and requires a lot of emotional catharsis and pain on her part, and she handles it wonderfully.

Highly recommended for fans of Cassavetes, but not where I would start with his work; that would be either Shadows or Faces. Either way, great, mature drama with wonderful performances and a challenging script.

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