by Johanna Schneller.
John Cassavetes would have hated smartphones. The late actor/writer/director may be regarded as the father of American independent filmmaking, and his work may be celebrated (or reviled) for its raw, cinema vérité feel. But most of his films were thoroughly scripted, and shot with his own money. So, as his lifelong collaborator and wife of 35 years, Gena Rowlands, explained, Cassavetes had an inviolable rule.
“You had to pay attention to what was going on,” Rowlands told me in a phone interview on Wednesday. “You never saw anybody reading the trades or anything. They were there to make the movie.” There would have been no heads-down tap-tap-tapping allowed.
Spontaneity doesn’t happen by accident – not Cassavetes’s kind, anyway. From 1959 until his death in 1989, he directed a dozen films, most of which he also wrote, including Faces (1968), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Opening Night (1977) and Gloria (1980). Eleven of them, plus three of Cassavetes’s best-known performances as an actor, will be shown July 14-31 at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, with Rowlands on hand for two days to introduce two films and do an onstage chat.
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