Love Streams

Director: John Cassavetes
Screenwriters: Ted Allan, John Cassavetes

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


In Love Streams, his most complex film, Cassavetes is working at full power again. Here, based on his close friend Ted Allan’s play, all the Cassavetes themes (minus the gangster imagery) come together. Robert Harmon (Cassavetes), a writer, has been overwhelmed by the limits of art explored in Opening Night, so he has settled for writing trash. He lives the sort of life the men in Husbands and Faces fantasize about: with utter freedom, constant women. One look at him is enough to tell us that he has come to a far grimmer dead end than Gazzara arrives at in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

His sister Sarah (Rowlands) has had a long marriage to a man (Cassel) she still loves—the kind of marriage that the women of Faces, Minnie and Moskowitz and A Woman under the Influence both value and feel trapped by; the side of life that the actress of Opening Night feels less a woman for having missed. It is perhaps Cassavetes;s bleakest statement that this marriage, too, has come to a grim dead end. Both the ideal American life, and the escape from that life, have panned out to nothing. Sarah has a teenage daughter, Robert a preteen son from a busted marriage—i.e., this enormous sense of failure is something others are inheriting. Now even Robert’s dead end has come to a dead end: he knows he can’t live way anymore; he also knows he can’t live any other way. And Sarah’s husband wants a divorce right away.

But even with all this, Cassavetes hasn’t finished integrating all his themes yet. In Woman and Opening Night, females had nervous breakdowns. In Husband, a male, Gazzara’s character, broke down. finally in Love Streams, a male and a female crack in the same film at the same time. Because Cassavetes, true to form, doesn’t chicken out, the only possible response to both their personal failures and the failure of the American way of life is a crack-up. Cassavetes takes this for granted. The questions that are important to him are: Can their crack-ups be survived? And is it possible, after going through all this, that they can still feel love at all, even and especially without false hope of happiness? Of course, Cassavetes isn’t interested in grand answers, doesn’t believe they’re possible. But he is passionately interested in seeing if his characters (and, by extension, you and I) can get through another day—really get through it, live it, not just fake it.

Both his questions, and how Cassavetes goes about answering them, are presented in what may be the most daring original scenes he has ever created. And he created them with a desperate, sometimes-ferocious enthusiasm. One day during the shooting, he suddenly looked up at everyone and said, “This is fascinating! I love this picture!” Then he laughed and added, “So I know it’s going to be a bomb. It’s a disaster when you love something.” Then he laughed some more, and went on to complete a great film.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]