Director: John Cassavetes
Running Time: 141 minutes
The Nightlight Cinema Film Society is proud to present the final produced screenplay of John Cassavetes whilst he was alive, Love Streams, this February 17th for one night only in our Lounge 237 area screening on our 135" screen! Only 25 tickets available for this event.
“Love is a stream. It’s continuous. It does not stop.”
John Cassavetes’s penultimate film, Love Streams, is the grand summation of a career devoted to prodding at all the messy, complicated layers of life. It contains fragments of the director’s earlier work (the midlife crises of Husbands, the mania and disconnect of A Woman Under the Influence, the drunken self-doubt of Opening Night), but reframes their open-ended explorations around the finality that Cassavetes felt approaching after being diagnosed with terminal cirrhosis.
At the start of the film, however, you could mistake it for a bleak comedy about the fear of getting old, not of never reaching advanced age. Two distant siblings, Robert (Cassavetes) and Sarah (Gena Rowlands), must each contend with upheavals in their lives: alcoholic author Robert learns that he has a son, Albie (Jakob Shaw), and must square the boy’s presence with his usual bacchanalia, while Sarah (Gena Rowlands) reels from a divorce from her husband (Seymour Cassel) and the maddening blow of her daughter requesting her dad take sole custody. Other filmmakers might have been content to simply stick with this premise, wringing humor from Robert’s befuddled entry into fatherhood and Sarah’s abandonment issues, but Cassavetes instead uses these shake-ups to loosen the characters and observe how they react.
The title alludes to a philosophy that Sarah clings to like driftwood as she faces the indifference of her ex-husband and daughter, that love is “continuous, it doesn’t stop.” But a stream, like any flowing body of water, also takes the path of least resistance, and it responds to sudden obstacles with diversions that can magnify and ultimately chart a vastly different course. It’s that potential for slowly reverberating change and growth that Cassavetes stresses with the film, and he tracks these mounting reverberations with subtle variations in his own directing style.
Love Streams drops hints throughout about Cassavetes’s illness, from his appearance to that fond wave goodbye that closes the film, but it may be the equilibrium bestowed upon Robert and Sarah that best suggests a benediction. Hopeful, open-ended conclusions are common in Cassavetes’s films, but this film gives the most powerful impression that its characters have been markedly improved by their experience. It’s a preparation for death by getting one’s life in order, and even if this wasn’t technically Cassavetes’s last film, it certainly feels like the end of his legacy.
~~ Jake Cole, slantmagazine.com