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Richard Forst has grown old. One night, he leaves his wife for Jeannie Rapp, a young woman who does not like friendship. Meanwhile, Richard's wife, Maria, is seduced by Chet, a kind young man from Detroit... A film about the meaningless of life for a certain kind of wealthy middle-aged people. Written by
Faces is one of the first American films to reach to the >core of people's relationships. It provides wonderful insight into a lifestyle that is distinctly American. The detached way that the characters interact most of the time is only a logical conclusion of the commerce-driven world we live in. The film is personal in a way that many European films of the 1950's and 1960's were. Even the title suggests the intimacy of the film and its treatment of its characters.
Cassavettes must have been repulsed by the insincerity of the people who were surrounding him when he wrote Faces. Few films have so many moments where characters are together but not talking to each other. They are merely talking, or laughing, or singing, doing anything they can to avoid having to confront the other person. Only once, when the young lover boy talks about the mechanical nature of people in America, do we even get any hint that the filmmaker is put off by the behavior of his characters. The rest of the time he merely films them and shows us what they do. This unsentimental approach can leave the viewer feeling a bit odd, but it works very well in the end. By seeing these character's shortcomings without any hint of disapproval from the filmmaker, the viewer is forced to consider their own lives and the people around them. It allows for an honesty not found in any, I repeat ANY other American film of the 1960's. Even Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf has some indications of Nichols' attitude towards the material. Faces is just the facts.
I can only imagine the excitement that people interested in film must have felt upon the release of this film. Here was a personal, Bergman-esque film made about American people living American lives. (Note: Bergman is referenced during the film.) The quiet desperation of the housewife, the empty feeling inside the businessman, the false nature of each and every relationship speak volumes about the reality of American family life. How refreshing it must have been to see these topics approached in an American film.
The film's style is notable as well. It is independent in every sense of the word. It uses a fluid camera, freeform acting, and natural lighting. In many ways, it paved the way for a lot of the young filmmakers of the 1970's by providing them with a stylistic freedom that Hollywood had previously ignored. Today, it appears as a fairly standard film in terms of style, but at the time it was groundbreaking and exciting. In fact, it retains that excitement today, although the real revelation is how much has been taken from the film and used by others.
Faces is a great movie experience. Anyone frustrated with the lack of real connection in their lives should see it, if only to realize that many others are suffering from the same fate.
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