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Faces (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on October 29, 2014

There couldn’t be a better title for this film.  Simple, elegant, powerful and highly appropriate.  I don’t think there’s anything that matters more to John Cassavetes than an actor’s face.  Whether it’s the creases in John Marley’s cheeks as he busts himself up with another corny joke, or coy but cautious eyes of Gena Rowlands as she juggles potentially dangerous strangers in her home, or the boyish grins of Seymour Cassel pouring on the charm, or the watchful gaze of Lynn Carlin as she stoically keeps her feelings to herself, the camera is right up in those faces.  Drinking it all in, pouring it all out.  The possessive leers of Fred Draper, the desperation of Dorothy Gulliver, the devious bravado of Val Avery.

But more than that, it’s a movie about the faces we wear, the masks we’re constantly swapping out.  We try different ones out when they’re not getting our needs met.  We put on a face to save face.  We don a persona to seem like the life of the party, the unflappable top dog, the available companion.  When a little alcohol enters the picture, the faces fly around more recklessly.  It’s hard to keep up, we forget who we really are.  Sometimes the mask slips and there is a moment of genuine human contact.  Sometimes there are dire consequences.  Someone is suddenly put on the spot, and they have to decide whether to lower their mask.  Something awkward is said, something more real than anyone else was prepared for.  Or we reveal the bitterness brewing inside us, it’s not all fun and games goddammit.  There’s a person under here, can’t you see that?  “I think we’re making fools of ourselves.”

But sometimes those real moments are our saving grace.  Our vulnerability is reciprocated with kindness and understanding.  And Cassavetes knows, he knows… that is the deepest beauty there is.  Amid the crazy, shambling dance of social interaction, a dance we’re all making up as we go along, nothing is more right than when — even if only for an instant — two people find their step together, naked and open.  The face under the face sees the face under the face, and feels love for it.  True, deep, powerful joy.  Rating: Great (92)

IMDb

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