Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Opening Night

Opening Night; Drama, USA, 1977; D: John Cassavetes, S: Geena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, Paul Stewart, John Cassavetes, Laura Johnson, Seymour Cassel, Peter Falk

Myrtle Gordon is a middle-aged movie actress staring in a new play. Just as she exits the stage on a rainy evening, she meets a 17-year old girl named Nancy who is her biggest fan. While driving away in her limousine, Myrtle turns away and spots a gruesome image as Nancy gets hit and killed by a car that lost control on the street. From that point on, she becomes more and more problematic: she hates her role in the play as Virginia, an old woman cheating on her husband, and loathes the author of the play, the 65-year old Sarah. She argues with the director Manny and actor Maurice and has hallucinations of Nancy's ghost. Every new show gets more and more out of hand because of her insanity. She disappears mysteriously, but then reappears and gives a great performance in the last show.

Brilliant psychological drama "Opening Night" is another stunning display of John Cassavetes' disjointed, unusual and fabulous directing that stirs up the emotions of cold audience with such ease that many will feel uncomfortable. The double dimension story, one revolving around the heroine, actress Myrtle with personal problems, and the other one revolving around the theatre play where she acts the aging Virginia who's problems only enhance her own problems, sharply mirror each other and lead to a satisfying and gripping result, while the stunning performance by real life aging actress Geena Rowlands even gives the story a third dimension since the director and her husband John Cassavetes stars as her husband in the theatre play: Rowlands was rightfully nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress, and it's surprising that she didn't win, or that wasn't even nominated for the Oscar. The whole film is a conventional drama presented in an extremely unconventional way thanks to shaky camera movements, unusual camera angles and deliberately imperfect, "real" shots, like the one where the camera is placed in the audience and observes the actors performing on stage, while a shadowy silhouette of a viewer blocks the view from the left, or even displaying fantasy sequences (when Myrtle has visions of the ghost of the killed fan girl Nancy). As with some of his films, Cassavetes portrays the heroine a woman having to fight herself up in brutal man's world, placing the camera on the stage to get the scary perspective of actors carefully observed by audience: the play is performed four times during the film, every time turning more and more out of hand due to Myrtle's unstable state, except for the last one, which ends up in a surprise happy end, which is rather flawed compared to the rest of this uncompromising film.


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