Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Way Home

John Cassavetes has the gift of the gab. I mean that to in no way diminish what it is that he is saying as compared to the way that it is said. So many people have lost the ability to express themselves verbally in ways that are as revealing, thoughtful and playful as the ways that we use the written word in the modern world; to use the gifts, the techniques of rhetoric as a way to tease out what we think and to challenge and provoke those around us. Ray Carney's book Cassavetes on Cassavetes, a good contender for a bible for indie filmmakers, reveals, in its transcription of endless interviews and dialogues between Carney and Cassavetes, a humanist artist as insightful with oration as he is with his films. I flipped to a random page this morning and this is where I landed:
When a scene plays awkwardly or something goes wrong, I don't criticize it, change it or call 'cut'. I look at it and say, all right, it's not exactly the right reading, but life doesn't always have the right meaning. We stutter, we stammer through life. We sometimes say things we're sorry for later. We make fools of ourselves constantly. In life this is frowned upon, but in a movie this is revealing. The mistakes that you make in your own life, in your own personality, are assets on the film. So if I can just convince somebody not to clean themselves up, and not to be someone they're not and just be what they are in a given circumstance, that's all that acting is to me. (p. 167, Cassavetes on Cassavetes, Ray Carney, Faber & Faber)
Amid many similar gems in this book - which, to my slight embarrassment, I use as points for reflection as if it was Aurelius' 'Meditations' - there is one small thing that Cassavetes says that has been a constant touchstone for me. Make of it what you will. It is this: 
People patrol certain streets, patrol their house, and they know their way home. You somehow, drunk or sober or any other way, always find your way back to where you live. And when you cease to know the way home, things go wrong. And then you get detoured. And when you can't find your way home, that's when I consider it's worth it to make a film. Because that's interesting. People are interested in people that are really in trouble. Not pretending to be.


Sig. Nonloso said...

I understand completely your inclination to use the Carney book on Cassavetes as if it were Marcus Aurelius--it's that kind of book. I think it's one the most interesting books of any kind I've read in the last 10 years (I usually read lit).

Perhaps Cassavetes has gotten a bit of a bad name among some because of those who profess to be his followers. For a guy who repeatedly encouraged people to go their own way, not to follow him slavishly as a model, or, god forbid, turn him into a fashionable figure, it's odd that his most outspoken followers tend to do just these kinds of things.

In any, case just discovered your blog because I was looking online for the Cassavetes' quote about being lost, as my copy of the Carney book is a few thousand miles away right now. Look forward to reading your other entries.

The Buoy Archives said...

I'd love to distil it down to a 'Notes on Cinematography' size tome that can sit in the back pocket for constant meditation... one day... And I understand completely your note about an artist demanding people find their own path and instead attracting imitation. Such is the curse of charisma, I suspect. Thanks for your thoughts and good words and apologies for the long delay in responding to your post. I've been offline for a month of digital erasure. Back now and more blogs to come soon, I hope. Rhys