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Minnie breaks up with her married boyfriend and becomes disillusioned. However, she begins to learn that there is hope for love and romance in a desperate world when she meets a crazy car-parker named Seymour. Written by
David Gibson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Moskowitz is carrying Minnie in the living room, she has a lit cigarette in her hand. After he carries her upstairs to her bedroom and puts her down on the bed, she has no cigarette in her hand. See more »
Blondes! What is it with you blondes? You all have some Swedish suicide impulse, huh?
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Here, he takes one of the most popular movie formats, the romance. Boy- meets-girl in LA, under the lights. But she is no cool femme fatale, she is fragile, unsure of herself. He is no Bogie himself; as the film starts he is watching The Maltese Falcon in a theater, a scene where Mary Astor throws herself crying on Bogie's feet. Trying to pick up women afterwards, he's chased out of bars, looked at as a weirdo and beaten up in an alley.
The idea is that we are not going to see movie people, but real people on the street. That was the ambition anyway, a situation aggravated by Cassavetes' actorly Studio background—as in Husbands, we have constant shouting matches, awkward intrusions, obnoxious pulling and nervousness. He seems to think the room inhabited by these characters won't feel real and lived, unless we have damage on the walls, a Greek sensibility, after all the main story recasts Zorba.
So unlike a Bogart film, the actors here don't coolly glide off each other, they cut themselves on each other's edges.
The same situation develops here as I described in my comment on Husbands. The edges, the damage are unusually pronounced, by this I mean a situation like when Moskowitz almost runs her over with his truck to get her to go with him takes me out of it. A softer next moment will pull me in again, until the next hysteric one and so on.
Which brings me to my main discussion about presence.
Moskowitz is the kind of character who can be likable once you get to know him, the sort of bond you form with coworkers that greatly depends on shared time. Minnie is warm when we first see her, but there's a haughty, nervous ghost in her. It is, let's say, a truer to life perception than the immediately charming Bogarts and Stanwycks of old. It requires work to take them in, giving space.
That narrative room, that space where characters wreck themselves and things works the same way once you excise the shouty moments, simply wonderful. None of the individual visual moments are cool or typically beautiful. The locales are drab and mundane. The light and textures all natural, the whole is imperfect but breathes. In this, he equals Pasolini, another master of the living eye.
So on a moment-by- moment basis, the space is like the characters, intensely present flow to undefined horizon. In a movie like the Maltese Falcon, the narrative horizon is immediately defined (get the bird), and again defined in every scene (get out of there, rough someone up, etc.) so we are at all times comfortably tethered, enjoying the play. What Cassavetes does matters in the long run in the sculpting of the overall effect, it doesn't leap to attention.
Like Husbands, this slowly starts to work for me once I have a narrative shift that faintly, very faintly defines a certain horizon in the story—here marriage. Cassavetes is work, because this happens so late in the movie, the bulk of it is like staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration, or waiting for musicians to tune their instruments. Here, that shift happens about 9/10ths in the film, and then we're through that and a new horizon opens, the closing shots of family life and then it's over.
So it starts to work late but extends for me to long after it's over, it's one of the most haunting effects I know, transcendentally marvelous; more on that in the next comment on Woman.
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