The Film Career of John Cassavetes, Part One

Cassavetes is Cassavetes and no-one else, his directing style was different to whatever went before and set precedents for much of what was to follow. Cassavetes focused on characters, indeed the character was everything to him often to the detriment of narrative, plot and storyline. He shot mostly hand-held using normal lighting to accommodate the spontaneity of his actors. He constantly defied standard practice becoming a symbol of the American counter-culture independent film movement. He strove to depict human nature as it truly was, in it’s rawest form and in aggressive opposition to the normal Hollywood depiction that had become a societal norm. His characters were complex, illegible and thought-provoking; Cassavetes ensured that to understand was not going to be easy, just like reality.

He stayed away from employing actors who were high profile and who would be more interested in their image than in the character they were portraying. He employed mostly friends and acquaintances as cast and crew offering little or no money guarantee but a share in the profits of the film, if there were any.

His directorial debut Shadows (1959) was shot in this manner over a four year period, mostly taking place on week-ends and when funds were available. Shadows was an account of a biracial romance between an African-American woman, Leila Goldoni and a white man, Anthony Ray, who eventually ditches her when he meets the rest of her family. Unflattering, bursting with energy and real, real, real it took the Critic’s Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source Russell Shortt, http://www.exploringireland.net

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