FACES (director/writer: John Cassavetes; cinematographers: Maurice McEndree/Al Ruban; editors: John Cassavetes/Maurice McEndree/Al Ruban; music: Jack Ackerman/Charlie Smalls; cast: John Marley (Richard Forst), Gene Rowlands (Jeannie Rapp), Lynn Carlin (Maria Forst), Seymour Cassel (Chet), Fred Draper (Freddie), Val Avery (Jim McCarthy), Dorothy Gulliver (Florence); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Cassavetes/Maurice McEndree/Al Ruban; Criterion Collection; 1968)
“Drags its realism along like an overblown drunk tooting his own horn.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Overlong (originally meant as a six-hour film) and dreary soap opera opus blown out of proportion by the self-indulgent indy filmmaker John Cassavetes (“Shadows”/”Too Late Blues”/”A Child Is Waiting”), who directs as if all talk and silly play is a blast as a substitute for action. Though it has props as a landmark film for indy lovers because it defines a new way of filmmaking, even if did a poor box office and wasn’t as good as his later Husbands. During its day it was greeted as a possible savior for indy filmmaking. Cassavetes shot it on a grainy 16mm black-and-white stock. It’s about a mid-life crisis that results over a period of 36 hours in the life of a middle-aged couple, married for 14 years, facing up to a rocky marriage and realizing it’s all over but for the divorce. The nervy acting from the gut by the ensemble cast is first-rate and at times it’s fascinating in its long-winded ‘not like Hollywood’ harangues, but mostly it drags its realism along like an overblown drunk tooting his own horn.
LA middle-aged couple, Richard Forst (John Marley) and Maria (Lynn Carlin, non-professional who was the former secretary for Robert Altman at Screen Gems), are childless and uptight about aging. Their conversations are only about superficial things, and the successful businessman and his wife take their loveless marriage and their material comforts for granted. Things seem to be drifting apart in their marriage, and wifey turns down his request for sex so he asks for a divorce. In front of Maria, he calls a longtime prostitute friend, Jennie Rapp (Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’s wife), and spends the entire evening with the prostitute. Meanwhile Maria and her girlfriends go out to a disco looking for some action. There she meets Chet (Seymour Cassel), of all things, a hippie, and she brings him to her home and sleeps with him. In the morning hubby returns and Chet flees across the lawn, while the two unhappy marrieds numbly sit on the bed together but can’t find a thing to say to each other.
It dispenses with conventional plot structure, and instead tries to realistically capture in cinéma vérité the bad marriage coming apart in real time as the modern couple searches their unenlightened souls for answers. The problem is that it’s a tedious watch, no matter how noble is the effort.
Faces was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 6/24/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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