June 12th 2023: The IFI is excited to present a retrospective season celebrating the authentic American auteur John Cassavetes online on IFI@Home, streaming nationwide across the Republic of Ireland, June 12th – July 10th.

Visionary American independent filmmaker John Cassavetes (1929 – 1989) focused his storytelling and aesthetic on everyday relationships, ambitions and heartbreaks, capturing characters’ small feelings. Speaking about presenting six of the auteur’s films on IFI@Home, IFI Cinema Programmer Kevin Coyne said, ‘John Cassavetes is a figure of inestimable influence. His bold, even radical approach to cinema was key to the work of numerous directors and movements that followed in his footsteps. Any opportunity to experience his films, such as this selection on IFI@Home, is to be welcomed’.

Cassavetes’s acting fees, largely earned from his career in television, were invested into directorial debut Shadows (1959), which won the Critics Award at the Venice International Film Festival 1960. Featuring a soundtrack scored by Charles Mingus and Shafi Hadi, it was originally conceived as an improvisisational film, rehearsed in 1957, then fully scripted in 1959. Shadows was followed in 1961 by Too Late Blues, the story of jazz musician ‘Ghost’ Wakefield, following Ghost’s purist ideals as an artist, and mirroring Cassavetes’s own conflicts working within the studio system. 

Faces (1968) won Cassavetes the Pasinetti Award at the 29th Venice International Film Festival, and earned actor John Marley the Best Actor accolade. Shot in cinéma vérité style, Faces depicts the final stages of a crumbling marriage; Marley plays opposite Lynn Carlin in her acting debut, and Gena Rowlands stars as Jeannie Rapp. Rowlands and Cassavetes made ten films together, and were married from 1954 until his death in ’89. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) also follows the conflict between an unhappy couple, this time played by Rowlands and Peter Falk. The film earned two Oscar® nominations, for Best Actress and Best Director.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) saw Cassavetes tackle different genre conventions; a gritty Neo-noir, it stars Ben Gazzara, who would go on to star in Opening Night (1977). In The Killing, Gazzara plays Cosmo Vittelli, the owner of a nightclub on the Sunset Strip, LA, whose whims, dreams and errors navigate show business and debt. In Opening Night, the art of performance and the personal strain it warrants weighs on Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands), who is mentally tormented after witnessing the accidental death of one of her fans. Rowlands would take the lead in her husband’s next two films, Gloria (1980) and Love Streams (1984), before Cassavetes’s career ended with Big Trouble (1986), Cassavetes’s last directorial effort before his death in 1989.

Described by the New Yorker as possibly ‘the most influential American director of the last half of the century’, Cassavetes’s dedication to depicting the vision of the people and the pain of performance is displayed in this online season.

John Cassavetes: American Auteur is now streaming nationwide on IFI@Home, until Monday, July 10th:
Full season pass available, 6 films for €24.99:

IFI is principally funded by the Arts Council.

The IFI is supported
by The Arts Council

Arts Council of Ireland