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... Far from being a rush job, Charity's book boasts considerable new research and interviews with most of the important figures in Cassavetes' life (though, sadly not Gena Rowlands, his widow). I spotted a handful of errors, generally minor cultural lapses you might expect from a foreign critic - but, let me emphasise, these are few and far between. Packed with great, sometimes hilarious anecdotes (Cassavetes really rocked!) Charity's book brings JC to life - and the same can be said about Cassavetes' notoriously difficult films, which have rarely been explored with such vivid insight and penetration. As a major bonus, the book comes with fascinating tributes from the likes of Gary Oldman, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch and Pedro Almodovar, to name but a few. It would be worth buying for these alone - but then it would be worth buying without them too...
A terrific introduction to one of the most important American film-makers of all time, whose influence extends around the globe (there'd be no dogme without him) and whose films are testaments to being true to artistic vision, to oneself and to others. I say 'introduction' because that's what all books on film should aspire to - to introduce the reader to the movies but not replace the experience of watching them. Charity, who writes with tremendous affection laced with a touch of hard-boiled cynicism that is perfect for his subject, is an ideal guide. His brisk and authoritative text is laced with anecdotes (many of them told in the first person by an astounding range of interviewees who knew, loved and worked with Cassavetes) and it includes testaments from a variety of film-makers who testify gladly to the effect that Cassavetes had on their work, from Almodovar to Gary Oldman and Jim Jarmusch. There are few biographies of film-makers that can make you feel like you know the subject - even Frayling's massive work on Sergio Leone is cold and distant compared to this. Reading Lifeworks was like watching Cassavetes films. I can't think of any higher recommendation. Except to say that this book also made me want to watch them all again. And again. Mr Charity, sir, I salute you.
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I've long been a fan of John Cassavetes, the actor. But after reading this book, I realize that the man's gift to film wasn't in the acting he did for others, but rather his amazing body of work as a writer and director. This book provides a thorough account of each of his movies and insight into his many collaborators. Not a coldly analytical critique, but an honest and detailed look at the career and character of an American original, warts and all.
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I bought this book with great hopes. John Cassavetes is an important filmmaker whose work is still inexplicably neglected by mainstream film critics, historians, and teachers. But I'm sorry to say that the book was a major league disappointment. Tom Charity is a reviewer for Time Out magazine and the book shows all the flaws of what I might call "the reviewer's syndrome." It is all too obviously a quickie project thrown together in a few weeks or months to cash in on Cassavetes' increasing popularity. Omnibus Press, the publisher of the book, has in the past specialized in precisely this sort of book and Charity's volume unfortunately takes its place alongside their previous biographies of Madonna, New Kids on the Block, and other pop culture flashes in the pan. It is shallow, glib, and (worst of all) mistake-ridden. The first problem is that Charity's "research" (such as it is) shows every sign of being rushed, slipshod, and superficial. The book is riddled with errors--hundreds and hundreds of them--from scores of factual mistakes, wrong names, and dates to a a whole series of interpretive gaffes, when Charity a journalist who has previously attempted nothing more ambitious that a volume on the astronaut movie, The Right Stuff, attempts to produce high-brow interpretations of Cassavetes' challenging works of art. The second problem is the organization of the book, or more precisely, complete lack of organization.Read more ›