Story lineA young woman gets killed in an accident trying to meet her favorite actress Myrtle Gordon after a play. Then Myrtle Gordon felt responsible for the killing leading her down to an emotional crisis that interferes with her professional work as an actress.
|Cast overview, first billed only:|
Kelly (as Louise Fitch)
It was once suggested by Pauline Kael, never a fan, that Cassavetes thought not like a director, but like an actor. What Kael meant was his supposed lack of sophistication as a filmmaker; to take that comparison further, to me, it never feels like Cassavetes is directing himself in a film, it feels like Cassavetes implanting himself inside his own creation, like Orson Welles. Cassavetes is just as much of a genius as Welles, but far more important as a true artist (as opposed to a technician or rhetorician). This is like a cross between Italian passion (though Cassavetes was actually Greek) and Scandinavian introversion. Never before have inner demons been so exposed physically.
It's about the mystery of becoming, performing, and acting. Like a haunted Skip James record, it's got the echoes of ghosts all around. Rowlands' breakdowns, which are stupefying and almost operatic, surprising coming from Cassavetes, are accompanied by a jumpy, unsettling piano. Who is this dead girl? The metaphysical possibilities are endless, and it's amazing to find this kind of thing in a Cassavetes film, just the overt display of intelligence (there is also a brief bit of voice-over at the beginning). But then, he always was intelligent, he just never flapped it around for easy praise. This is not "Adaptation"; here, the blending of reality and fiction and drama is not to show cleverness but to show the inner turmoil and confusion it creates.
There's so much going on. The pure, joyous love when Rowlands greets her doorman; the horror when she beats herself up... The scene where the girl talks about how she devoted her life to art and to music is one of the most effective demonstrations of understanding what it means to be a fan of someone. You can see some roots of this in "A Star Is Born," and Almodovar borrowed from it for "All About My Mother." I think the ending is a little bit of a disappointment because of the laughing fits, but the preparation leading up to it is almost sickening. (You can shoot me, but I think the alcoholism, despite its urgency in many of the scenes, is a relatively small point about the film.)