Faces (1968)

129 mins | Drama | 24 November 1968

Director:

John Cassavetes

Writer:

John Cassavetes

Producer:

Maurice McEndree

Cinematographer:

Al Ruban

Production Designer:

Phedon Papamichael

Production Company:

Maurice McEndree Productions
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HISTORY

Faces was the third feature film by John Cassavetes, an actor-turned-filmmaker often credited with introducing cinéma-vérité to American moviegoers with his writing and directorial debut, Shadows (1961, see entry). In a 16 Feb 1969 interview with LAT, Cassavetes recalled the origin of Faces, which he began writing on an airplane. The first half of the screenplay grew to 276 pages (twice the length of an average completed script) and the remainder was written during filming.
       The production was independently financed by Cassavetes and his wife, actress Gena Rowlands, who starred in the picture as “Jeannie Rapp.” In addition to using their own money, Cassavetes reportedly secured a bank loan “with no collateral” from Bank of America. In 1965, a protracted shooting schedule, including rehearsals, took place over the course of eight months, according to an interview published in the 1 Dec 1968 NYT. While Cassavetes noted, at the time, that the picture cost $40,000, he later cited higher figures for the budget, between $150,000 and $200,000, in the 30 Jun 1968 NYT and 9 Nov 1969 LAT. Actors allegedly worked for no pay, but were promised profit participation.
       Director of photography Al Ruban used a handheld camera for the bulk of filming, which necessitated that entire rooms be lit to allow “360-degree” mobility, as stated in the 16 Feb 1969 LAT. Locations included a Hollywood nightclub called The Losers, the home of Gena Rowlands’s mother in Los Angeles, CA, and the Cassavetes’ residence in the Hollywood Hills, where Rowlands cooked meals for the twenty-five-person cast and crew twice a day.
       Among ... More Less

Faces was the third feature film by John Cassavetes, an actor-turned-filmmaker often credited with introducing cinéma-vérité to American moviegoers with his writing and directorial debut, Shadows (1961, see entry). In a 16 Feb 1969 interview with LAT, Cassavetes recalled the origin of Faces, which he began writing on an airplane. The first half of the screenplay grew to 276 pages (twice the length of an average completed script) and the remainder was written during filming.
       The production was independently financed by Cassavetes and his wife, actress Gena Rowlands, who starred in the picture as “Jeannie Rapp.” In addition to using their own money, Cassavetes reportedly secured a bank loan “with no collateral” from Bank of America. In 1965, a protracted shooting schedule, including rehearsals, took place over the course of eight months, according to an interview published in the 1 Dec 1968 NYT. While Cassavetes noted, at the time, that the picture cost $40,000, he later cited higher figures for the budget, between $150,000 and $200,000, in the 30 Jun 1968 NYT and 9 Nov 1969 LAT. Actors allegedly worked for no pay, but were promised profit participation.
       Director of photography Al Ruban used a handheld camera for the bulk of filming, which necessitated that entire rooms be lit to allow “360-degree” mobility, as stated in the 16 Feb 1969 LAT. Locations included a Hollywood nightclub called The Losers, the home of Gena Rowlands’s mother in Los Angeles, CA, and the Cassavetes’ residence in the Hollywood Hills, where Rowlands cooked meals for the twenty-five-person cast and crew twice a day.
       Among the cast was Dorothy Gulliver, formerly a “Wampas Baby Star” of 1928, whose last credited feature film appearance had been in 1944’s Sweethearts of the U.S.A. (see entry). A 3 Jan 1969 LAT article stated that producer Maurice McEndree noticed the semi-retired actress “clowning around” at a party in Beverly Hills, CA, and took her number to arrange an audition.
       By the time principal photography was completed, roughly 750,000 feet of film had been exposed. Processing was done by Pathe Labs, which nearly repossessed the film negatives when Cassavetes was unable to pay a $17,000 bill, as noted in the 16 Feb 1969 LAT. The first cut of the picture was said to be seven hours in length. It took Cassavetes three years to complete the edit. The 5 Jun 1968 Var stated that he had two final weeks of post-production scheduled, in advance of private screenings on the East and West coasts, to be followed by a preview screening in London, England. The British showing, a midnight matinee, took place on 25 Jun 1968 at the National Film Theatre, according to a Var item published the following day. Cassavetes’s next step was to enter the picture into festivals, to gain positive word-of-mouth before selling distribution rights. The film was subsequently accepted into the Venice Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and San Francisco International Film Festival. At Venice, it won several awards, including the Volpi Cup for Best Actor (John Marley), the Pasinetti award for Best Film, the Giovanni Vega Golden Plaque from Sicilian critics, and the Golden Oar from the Center of Human Relations, as stated in the 18 Sep 1968 Var, which also noted that the jury had made a rare exception for Faces, which had been entered and screened without the required Italian subtitles.
       Following positive reception at Venice, Cassavetes offered to sell the picture outright for $1.5 million, as reported in the 11 Sep 1968 DV. Within two months, the Walter Reade Organization had acquired distribution rights for the U.S. and Canada, the 11 Nov 1968 NYT reported.
       Upon release, Faces was hailed as a groundbreaking film by many critics. Although the 26 Jun 1968 DV compared it unfavorably to Shadows, lamenting that technical aspects were lacking and dialogue sounded “garbled,” NYT’s Renata Adler described the picture in her 15 Sep 1968 NYT review as “a movie so good that one can hardly believe it, on the basis of Cassavetes’s earlier film, ‘Shadows,’” and the 16 Feb 1969 LAT called it “an undeniably significant master work.” While several reviewers described Cassavetes’s style as improvisational, LAT clarified that the only dialogue known to have strayed from the script was “some funny doggerel that the young gigolo sings to the suicidal wife, pre-coitus.”
       The picture went on to receive three Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Supporting Role (Seymour Cassel); Actress in a Supporting Role (Lynn Carlin); and Writing (Story and Screenplay—written directly for the screen). The latter represented one of three Academy Award nominations Cassavetes received in his lifetime, and, over the years, Faces continued to be viewed as one of his highest artistic achievements. In 2011, it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Faces was also included in a five-picture DVD box set of Cassavetes’s work, released by Criterion in 2004. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1968
p. 2, 10.
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1968
p. 1, 13.
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1968
Section A, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1968
Section F, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jan 1969
Section H, p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times
16 Feb 1969
Section T, p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times
23 May 1969
Section E, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
9 Nov 1969
Section P, p. 20.
New York Times
30 Jun 1968
Section D, p. 13.
New York Times
15 Sep 1968
Section D, p. 1, 20.
New York Times
23 Sep 1968
p. 42.
New York Times
5 Nov 1968
p. 56.
New York Times
11 Nov 1968
p. 60.
New York Times
25 Nov 1968
p. 54.
New York Times
1 Dec 1968
Section D, p. 15.
New York Times
26 Sep 2004
Arts, p. 15, 22.
New York Times
28 Dec 2011
Section C, p. 2.
Variety
5 Jun 1968
p. 21.
Variety
26 Jun 1968
p. 26.
Variety
18 Sep 1968
p. 32.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"Never Felt Like This Before," words and music by Charles Smalls.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Dinosaurs
The Dynosaurs
Release Date:
24 November 1968
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 22 Sep 1968; New York opening: 24 Nov 1968; Los Angeles opening: 11 Dec 1968
Production Date:
1965
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
print by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
129
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After fourteen years, the childless marriage of Maria and Richard Forst has started to disintegrate. Frustrated by the approach of middle age, unable to communicate on anything more than a superficial level, and no longer comforted by their material possessions, they have begun to look elsewhere for emotional reassurance. One evening, after Maria has rejected Richard's physical advances, Richard abruptly announces that he wants a divorce and, in the presence of his wife, phones a prostitute, Jeannie Rapp, for a date. Jeannie consents, though by this time she and her friend are entertaining two out-of-town clients. Richard arrives at Jeannie's apartment and, following an ugly scence with one of the clients, she gets rid of her guests and permits Richard to spend the night. Maria, meanwhile, has gone to a discotheque with three other discontented wives. Encouraged by the attentions of the fun-loving Chet, the women invite him back to Maria's home. During the party that ensues, Maria watches with mixed emotions as her friends compete for the young man's attentions, but once she is alone with Chet, she responds to his playful lovemaking. When Chet awakens the next morning, he finds Maria unconscious from an overdose of sleeping tablets. He helps her recover, then hears Richard returning home--following a pleasant breakfast with Jeannie--and impulsively leaps out of the bedroom window, hops off the first-story roof, and races across the lawn. Richard observes the escape, and now face to face with Maria, he expresses his hurt by hurling insults at her; she retaliates by flatly stating that she no longer loves him. Finally, emotionally exhausted, they sit in numbed silence on the hallway stairs. With nothing left to say ... +


After fourteen years, the childless marriage of Maria and Richard Forst has started to disintegrate. Frustrated by the approach of middle age, unable to communicate on anything more than a superficial level, and no longer comforted by their material possessions, they have begun to look elsewhere for emotional reassurance. One evening, after Maria has rejected Richard's physical advances, Richard abruptly announces that he wants a divorce and, in the presence of his wife, phones a prostitute, Jeannie Rapp, for a date. Jeannie consents, though by this time she and her friend are entertaining two out-of-town clients. Richard arrives at Jeannie's apartment and, following an ugly scence with one of the clients, she gets rid of her guests and permits Richard to spend the night. Maria, meanwhile, has gone to a discotheque with three other discontented wives. Encouraged by the attentions of the fun-loving Chet, the women invite him back to Maria's home. During the party that ensues, Maria watches with mixed emotions as her friends compete for the young man's attentions, but once she is alone with Chet, she responds to his playful lovemaking. When Chet awakens the next morning, he finds Maria unconscious from an overdose of sleeping tablets. He helps her recover, then hears Richard returning home--following a pleasant breakfast with Jeannie--and impulsively leaps out of the bedroom window, hops off the first-story roof, and races across the lawn. Richard observes the escape, and now face to face with Maria, he expresses his hurt by hurling insults at her; she retaliates by flatly stating that she no longer loves him. Finally, emotionally exhausted, they sit in numbed silence on the hallway stairs. With nothing left to say to each other, they separate and walk into different parts of the house. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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