Monthly Archives: May 2008

COTMC, pt. 5

It’s challenging to maintain empathy with the character, or even to believe that a person would behave this way. Of course, behavior in Cassavetes films is frequently extreme, hyperbolic. But such behavior is usually justified by extreme circumstances — the collapsing marriage in Faces, the tremendous class anxieties and emotional incompetence of the characters in Woman, the deadly cat-and-mouse games of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Here the precipitating problem is a lousy play, and that makes it a little harder for the audience to follow the character through her outlandish permutations, a little harder for us to sympathize with someone who’s clearly putting everyone around her through a great deal of trouble and concern.

This is a serious problem. Perhaps it’s the audience’s problem — perhaps part of what Cassavetes wants to point out to us here is that art is as important as marriage, as important as defending your life. And perhaps I succumb to the old American prejudices that art is not “real work,” and that artists are essentially playing at life. I admit that’s possible. But I find myself unable to get around my feeling that the drama is out of proportion to the root conflict. This is the first film in the series that I really had to force myself to watch again, and it’s the first one that I didn’t really feel like reviewing. And this despite the fact that I ultimately ended up enjoying it very much.

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