films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

1976 / 135m - USA
Crime, Thriller
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie poster

Slightly better than I'd expected. I'm not big on these gritty 70s crime flicks and so far John Cassavetes' films haven't left a great impression. It's not that Killing of Chinese Bookie is a major step forward, but for a film crossing the 2-hour mark, it never bored me, which is quite something.

Read all

Cosmo is a nightclub owner with a heart for his business, but his gambling addiction gets him into trouble. He owns the mob some money, which he cannot pay back. They offer him another option to clear his debt. For that, he has to kill a no-name bookmaker. There's more to the story though.

Gazzara does a solid job and Cassavetes paints a thorough picture of the man. The styling is classic 70s cinema (dark and gritty, but not very pretty or memorable) and the plot is relatively basic, but there's enough going on here. Fans of 70s crime should definitely give this a go, but I'm not sure if the film has major appeal beyond that.

A Woman Under the Influence

1974 / 155m - USA
A Woman Under the Influence poster

My first ever Cassavetes. A director who I haven't been actively avoiding, still I had a feeling his films might not be quite what I was looking for. A Woman Under the Influence confirmed my expectations, though it could've been a lot worse, considering the type of film Cassavetes tried to make.

Read all

While I'm not a big fan of it, the almost documentary-like approach worked well and fitted the tone of the film. It's incredibly ugly and unattractive and just more proof that I don't handle that grim, gray and dire 70s look very well, but at least it did get me a little closer to the characters, which is what this film is all about.

What I absolutely couldn't stomach was the constant conflict. Every bit of dialogue is a shouting match, even the simplest interaction is fraught with tension and irritation. Sadly Falk and Rowlands weren't capable enough to pull it off, so after about half an hour the film really started to get on my nerves. Not a success.


1958 / 82m - USA
Drama, Romance
Shadows poster

Cassavetes is best known for his later work, but he already made a splash with his very first film. Shadows feels more modern than its production year suggests, probably because of its improvisational nature. It makes it slightly more impressive, though I never quite got into the drama.

Read all

Benny is a dark boy who lives in Manhattan. He is a talented musician, but still runs into prejudice from time to time. His sister Lelia has a lighter skin tone and finds it easier to mix with white people. She falls in love with a white boy, but mixed relationships are still quite troublesome.

Cassavetes' film offers a nice peek into the beat scene of that time. Sadly, some performances are pretty weak and the music didn't really appeal to me either. The film is rather short, and it does feel less constricted and less fake than many of its contemporaries, but it wasn't a roaring success for me.


1968 / 130m - USA
Faces poster

A pretty tough Cassavetes. I liked the setup, in theory, but the characters never really came to life and though it felt as if they were supposed to be lived-in and lifelike, I found the performances forced and awkward. The excessive runtime certainly didn't help either, making this a slog to sit through.

Read all

Forst is an elderly, wealthy man, but his life feels empty. He wants to stir things up, so he leaves his wife for a younger woman, hoping this will make him feel something again. Meanwhile, his wife also hooks up with someone younger. These new relationships prove to be quite superficial though.

The empty lives of the rich and wealthy is a subject that has made quite a comeback these past couple of years, but it has the tendency to be a little shallow. What bothered me the most were the exaggerated performances though, especially as most of the film is spent on conversations between the different characters. Not for me.