Monday, June 28, 2010

OPENING NIGHT (1977) - John Cassavetes

The exact opposite of Chinese Bookie, I was dreading watching Opening Night and thought for sure I would hate it. After all, it's nearly two and a half hours long, concerns "The Theatre" with a capital T and seemed, at first glance, way too autobiographical with Gena Rowlands playing a great but aging actress coming to terms with her fading career. Opening Night sounded like a recipe for self-indulgence if there ever was one. But unlike the crime genre, Cassavetes knows self-indulgence, especially self-indulgent actors. He indulges the self-indulgence, letting wife Rowlands have temper tantrums on set, show up blind drunk, completely rewrite her lines on the spot (the writer takes a beating in this) and even start seeing younger versions of herself in a girl that may or may not be a ghost of her past.

Yes, it's all very melodramatic but in an enjoyable way. Opening Night is every theatre director/producer's nightmare and every aging actress' dose of reality. And Rowlands WALLOWS in it, literally rolling about on the floor at some points. I'm not so sure I agree with Cassavetes' seeming solution to Myrtle's problem at the end -- that extreme improvisation and extreme alcoholism can right all artistic wrongs -- but I'm positive that somewhere in a Julliard dorm room this movie's playing on a 24-hr loop. As it should.

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