Director: John Cassavetes
Screenwriters: John Cassavetes

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Shadows had been inspired almost spontaneously, growing out of the collective enthusiasm of an acting workshop; Too Late Blues and A Child Is Waiting were studio financed, films made because Shadows had given Cassavetes a quirky fame that Hollywood felt might be profitable. Faces, by contrast, was the first work that John Cassavetes conceived, wrote, produced and directed out of a burning need to make that film. Working with a tiny crew; shooting mostly on weekends, over many months, and mostly in his house with his own money; using a densely written script unlike anything ever composed for screen or stage; and fortunate that his wife and close friends were among the most original and gifted actors in the country—John Cassavetes stuck his fingers down the throat of “Leave It to Beaver” and photographed what came spewing up. Here was the inner life of the American fiddle class as no other artist had recognized or revealed it. Gnawing longings; impacted rages; weary tenderness; almost-gentle betrayals; numbing disappointment; impotent shame; gushing talk expressive of nothing so much as an excruciating inability to really speak; and a horrid sense that nobody knows what’s wrong or what to do—that’s what Cassavetes saw festering beneath the crust of average family life.

To express what he saw, he broke with every accepted film technique—as did Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, John Marley, Lynn Carlin and Al Ruban. There have been many works about the dissolution of a marriage, but none exhausts you like Faces. In scene structure, in dialogue, in editing, and, most of all, in subject matter, Cassavetes finds in Faces his true voice. It is his first masterpiece.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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