Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m calling 2020 movie catchup officially over for the time being. I feel comfortable enough with the body of work I watched, and I’ve started the long process of putting together my year end list. Once the Oscar nominations come out, I’ll jump back in to the 2020 back log, but for now it’s time to fill in some older blind spots.
Faces (1968, Dir. John Cassavetes)
Cassavetes is a huge blind spot for me. His films have been on my list for years at this point, but it took Jessie Buckley quoting Pauline Kael on Woman Under the Influence (1974) in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020 Dir. Charlie Kaufman) to move the American filmmaker to the top of the list. Instead of diving directly into the afore mentioned film, I chose to start with Faces. Just a personal preference of mine to start earlier in a director’s oeuvre so I can watch themes develop as I movie forward.
My initial thoughts upon watching Faces, is that I understand where the early works of Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski are coming from much better now. I’m sure many film purists would decry the comparison, but it’s clear that the mumblecore movement of the aughts took inspiration from this film. Cassavetes’s characters may be close to middle aged in contrast with the fresh out of college adults in the mumblecore films, but the sense of ennui in the characters is unmistakably the same.
While Faces technically has plot, albeit a short one, the film stretches that lose framework to a rather lengthy 130-minute runtime. It does that by allowing each scene to play out to an uncomfortable length. Parties all cross the threshold from a good time being had by all to it being clear that everyone has overstayed their welcome in seemingly real time. Each character becomes more and more desperate as each scene plays on. Whatever vice starts as a diversion from internal despair can never change the miserable people they are. The main couple end the film smoking cigarettes on the stairs, forced to accept their current reality.