To most film junkies, the late actor and director John Cassavetes (Faces, A Woman Under the Influence) is an independent film icon. To everyone else, he's either the evil husband in Rosemary's Baby or the guy who directed wife Gena Rowlands in Gloria. And that is Fine's motivation: "I wanted to write the book that I longed to read...the one that explained to a mainstream audience why they should know and care about the work of John Cassavetes." The good news is, the book is not an impenetrable academic tome. Rather than engage in esoteric film criticism, Fine gives us a blow-by-blow account of how Cassavetes's fierce will led to the birth of independent film. The director's desire to go against the grain is highlighted throughout, such as when he told higher ups at the Actors Studio: "Screw you. I don't want any part of you. I've got my own school and I'll drive yours out of town." For a Cassavetes devotee, this is manna. But if Fine's goal is to convert the uninitiated, he's missed the mark by taking it for granted that the reader will be as enamored of his subject as he is. And Fine's fetishistic description of every Cassavetes project progresses at a merciless grind so tedious that the merely curious would do better to rent a Cassavetes film.
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Fine stints on critical analysis yet convincingly argues that mainstream moviegoers ought to care about maverick director Cassavetes (1929-89) as the progenitor of today's American independent film movement. Cassavetes stumbled into making his groundbreaking first film, Shadows, which evolved out of workshops he conducted as a young actor in late-1950s New York. Other challenging, uncompromising works followed over the next decades, including Faces, Husbands, and A Woman under the Influence. Fine details Cassavetes' struggles to finance and distribute his resolutely noncommercial films, which he funded largely from his earnings as a performer in others' movies, such as The Dirty Dozen and Rosemary's Baby. The loose, sometimes messy nature of his own films led many to believe they were improvised. All derived from tight scripts, though Cassavetes espoused spontaneity and called planning "the most destructive thing in the world." Fine talked with members of Cassavetes' inner circle (though not with his wife and frequent collaborator, Gena Rowlands) as well as other directors, such as Martin Scorsese, who were influenced by his approach. Gordon Flagg
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I've been a fan of Cassavetes movies for many years and it was wonderful to be able to get the back story. Read morePublished on January 6, 2013 by song
Frankly haven't read the book all the way through yet, and Cassavetes is genuinely important---but to suggest in the sub-title that Cassavetes "invented" independent film is a bit... Read morePublished on February 19, 2011 by Ray Grasse
Lacking anything other to read about John Cassavetes outside of "Cassavetes on Cassavetes" (excellent book, by the way) I was happy to read this one. Read morePublished on February 1, 2010 by M. Swanton
The rise of independent film in Hollywood is an event which boils down to the efforts of one man: John Cassavetes. Read morePublished on February 8, 2007 by Midwest Book Review
Not sure why I picked this book up. Knowing next to nothing about Cassavetes before attempting this book, I decided halfway through it, that I don't care who Cassevetes is. Read morePublished on December 16, 2006 by A. Klicka
Beware any book featuring an outright lie on its cover!
John Cassavetes did NOT invent the American Independent Film -- nor did he ever claim to. Read more
This is one of the best film-related biographies that I have ever read. Fine is a voracious researcher and a gifted storyteller--just the combination you want in a biographer. Read morePublished on February 22, 2006 by telly savales lives
This is a great book. I am no big movie buff but stumbled on to Marshall Fine's look at Sam Peckinpah's life, "Bloody Sam"" a few years ago and loved it. Read morePublished on February 11, 2006 by R. Stackman