‘Love Streams’ (1984) dir. John Cassavetes
This is far and away my favorite Cassavetes film.
In general I am not a fan of movies about angst ridden people in the entertainment business. ‘Love Streams’ is an exception. This is a film about a boozy womanizing screenwriter (Cassavetes) and his mentally fractured sister (Gena Rowlands). It painfully details how the sexes deal with aging – women with the frantic loss of confidence as their looks diminish and men searching for sexual conquests to hold on to the boyish vigor they either lost long ago or never had. It’s all front and center in that emotionally grotesque way that only Cassavetes can convey. The complexity of truth in relationships has always been what he has explored in his films, the undercurrent being the desperate affection that binds us all together.
I believe the Cassavetes style of filmmaking to be at its most accessible here. For a drama of this type and at such a robust running time (141 min.) it never drags or becomes annoying. It’s important to find a balance with these things. That sweet spot between cinema verite style docudrama filmmaking and conventional narrative in order to get across what you’re trying to say. I don’t want to come off as dense but I prefer my films accessible for the most part. I just do. There is only so much esoteric, experimental and self absorbed footage I can withstand before I feel I am either being sold a bad bill of goods or I lose respect for the person making it. I don’t mind studied but I can’t do boring. The more rambling Cassavetes is in his narratives the less I enjoy them despite what I admire about the aesthetics and their texture. So ‘A Woman Under The Influence’ (1974), ‘The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie’ (1976) and ‘Love Streams’ are the Cassavetes films I gravitate towards as opposed to ‘Shadows’ (1959) or ‘Faces’ (1968).
As an independent filmmaker I certainly appreciate what Cassavetes represents to the spirit of the movement rather than his collective body of work. His spirit and Dionysian drive is one that fires me up more than most though I don’t consider him one of my filmmaking heroes and at the end of the day it is their work I’ll revisit rather than his – Fellini, Peckinpah, Argento, Leone, Forman etc…but that’s just my personal preference.
‘Love Streams’ sees people stretching into late middle age and finding themselves no longer comfortable in the world they inhabit and becoming increasingly agitated by it. All they know how to do is cling to the relationships in their lives no matter how old, torn or frayed. Cassavetes makes it clear that while life is finite, love in all its various streams – is infinite.