Minnie and Moskowitz
“The movies are a conspiracy. They set you up to believe in… everything!” Minnie Moore
John Cassavetes was post-humously appointed the godfather of the independent film scene (there’s even a John Cassavetes Award named after him at the annual Indie Spirits). That’s because his film 1959 Shadows is often cited as a breakthrough in independent production (it wasn’t by any means the first), and because throughout his subsequent dozen films as writer-director, he brooked no compromise – and if that meant paying for the films himself out of the proceeds from his successful acting career, then so be it. Faces, Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie still stand out for their emotional honesty and quicksilver portraiture.
This is his quirkiest film, and one of his most accessible. Bankrolled by Universal in that brief period when countercultural cinema flourished in the mainstream, the movie consciously tests the terms by which Hollywood romance infects our reality, and vice versa. It’s a screwball comedy of sorts, with the long-haired parking attendant Seymour Cassel pitching woo at the classy – but lonely – curator Gena Rowlands. (Both go to watch Bogart movies, separately and then together.) It’s a bruising kind of courtship, sometimes joyously slapsticky, sometimes searingly painful (a combination that will probably be familiar to everyone). This was the first time Rowlands enjoyed the lead role in her husband’s films, and we can sense his growing fascination and admiration for her. In Minnie we see the seeds of Mabel Longhetti (A Woman Under the Influence) and Myrtle Gordon (Opening Night). It’s also full of typically Cassavetian jagged edges and digressions: Val Avery is like a stray from a Todd Solondz film as an obnoxiously aggressive blind date, and there’s a choice monologue from cult crazy Timothy Carey.
Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie are also included in Ragged Glory: Summer in the 70s, and as an actor Cassavetes also stars in Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky.
The best American movie of 1971.
Joseph Gelmis, Newsday
A buoyant, backhanded tribute to Hollywood in general and romance in particular.
Diane Jacobs, Hollywood Renaissance
Alric Edens, Michael Margulies, Arthur J. Ornitz
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