Monday, January 16, 2006

Too Late Blues

John Cassavetes' most neglected film, made after Shadows and before Faces and the studio one with Burt Lancaster, is not one the same level as most of his other work, but it's actually not that bad. Like Shadows, the action is divided into little vignettes, in bars and pool halls. The best thing about Too Late Blues is the way it reproduces the kind of interactions that people actually have in those situations. Screenwriting teachers and gurus will tell you that good dialogue is not the way that people talk in reality, but a more intelligent, streamlined dialect. Cassavetes takes the opposite approach, usually by encouraging and facilitating improvisation; I find the results that he gets to be exciting and engaging. For instance, people who are familiar with each other don't need to "fill in the blanks"; they have their own ways of communicating and their own jokes that will sound stupid to anyone who might eavesdrop. Now why would anyone want to see those kinds of conversations on film? Because it's fascinating! Martin Scorsese obviously agreed, because many of the scenes in Mean Streets and Who's That Knocking At My Door use the looseness of Shadows and this film as a framework for depicting Little Italy.
Back to Too Late Blues. The story is not great, and some of the acting is awful. But Bobby Darin as the conflicted band leader is actually quite good, and it's always great to see a young Seymour Cassell. While it's not essential viewing, there's no good reason why it hasn't had a proper DVD release.


At 12:59 AM, Blogger Nate said...

Cassavetes' use of dialogue and actors is as fresh today as it was 40 years ago. That's what distinguishes a true artist from your typical "flavor of the week." Does he have a worthy successor nowadays? Goodness knows his son Nick isn't exactly following in his father's footsteps.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger William said...

A worthy successor? Hmmm. You just see snatches of it here and there. I think the last act of Wenders' "Paris, Texas" could have been in one of Cassavetes' 70s films. Honestly moments of "The Squid and the Whale" remind me of his mise-en-scene.
But definitely not Linklater or Soderbergh :).


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