Today while Googling for John Cassavetes – something I do quite regularly just as a reminder that filmmaking is art – I found this 1982 short film by American filmmaker Tamar Simon Hoffs. At the time, she was a student at UCLA and needed an actor for her lead role. Cassavetes decided to do a favor for her because Ben Gazzara’s daughter was producing the film. So he gave the filmmaker 24 hours of his time and they made this charming and excellent short film about a recording industry guy getting a really good haircut. It’s a great film because it doesn’t try hard. It just watches a man get happy because of where he is and who he is talking to.
What a magnificent thing for an artist to do – to share his time helping a student make a film. I think that’s great.
John Cassavetes’ first film was called ‘Shadows.’ It was made in 1959 and I think it might be the greatest film about race in America that’s ever been made. Cassavetes has always struck me as having an element of that required con-man aspect of the personality that is present in many good actors. When he talks he seems impressed with what he is saying and he knows how to deliver it with just the right amount of humor and a few self-deprecating remarks. But he means every goddamn word of it and he puts all of his thoughts into his film works. He’s one of those rare objects of confusion that sometimes crop up in American art. I’ve been watching a bunch of his films lately and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a filmmaker so interested in looking at the inability of the American adult to understand or even perceive the meaning of their habitual mannerisms. For me, his films illuminate what it means to be a grownup and how the performance required of grownups contrasts with what they really want to be.
Cassavetes on making ‘Shadows:’
That people can go out with nothing and through their own will and through their determination make something that exists… out of nothing. Out of no technical know-how, no equipment. There wasn’t one technician on the entire film. There wasn’t anybody who knew how to run a camera… walked in and started to read the directions of how to reload it. Got a Movieola and looked at it. Did all the things in the world and we made eight million mistakes. But it was exciting and fun.
This is a 1968 French documentary that was probably shot just after or during the making of his great marriage disaster film, ‘Faces.’