The New York Times
Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Filmby Marshall Fine
In the world of independent filmmaking, John Cassavetes became the prototypical outsider fighting the system for much of his career. A major star of live television and a serious actor, he stumbled into making his first film, Shadows, and created a template for working outside the Hollywood system that would produce some of the most piercing and human films/em>… See more details below
In the world of independent filmmaking, John Cassavetes became the prototypical outsider fighting the system for much of his career. A major star of live television and a serious actor, he stumbled into making his first film, Shadows, and created a template for working outside the Hollywood system that would produce some of the most piercing and human films of the last thirty years including A Women Under the Influence and Husbands.
Film critic Marshall Fine has been hailed by the New York Times for this "first full life of Cassavetes." The Minneapolis Star Tribune said, "Accidental Genius is as thoroughly researched as an academic study but reads like a pop biography minus the fawning." Fine reveals the passion and singularity that characterized Cassavetes and his lasting influence on filmmaking.
The New York Times
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Biographer Marshall Fine (Harvey Keitel and The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah) introduces us to John Cassavetes by describing a 1954 night on a deserted New York street when the actor frightened away four thugs by 'pretending to be a madman having a full-blown psychotic episode.' From this incident we learn as many would later discover that Cassavetes was someone who enjoyed turning things around, he loved spontaneity. Later he would become known as a gifted actor, an innovative director, the man whom many consider to be the father of independent films. Although she declined to be interviewed, responding as she always did that John did not want a biography, Cassavetes' widow, Gina Rowlands, did give Fine her approval and access to many of the actor's close friends and associates. Thus, we are rewarded with an intimate portrait of this enigmatic individual who so changed the way we view and think of movies today. After success as a star in 1950s television, Cassavetes began his highly acclaimed motion work work and made his first film, Shadows (1959). It was while he was serving as director of an acting workshop that he came up with a blueprint for films other than the ones made inside the then accepted system. In order to do this he tackled subjects other film makers wouldn't touch - race relations in America, marital relationships. Faces, which many consider to be one of his finest works, received three Academy Award nominations, one of which was for best screenplay by Cassavetes. Later, Woman Under The Influence garnered an Oscar nomination for Gina Rowlands as best actress in a leading role and Cassavetes was nominated Best Director. Those were not his only accolades - as an actor he won an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor for The Dirty Dozen. Much of the richness in this extensive bio is found in the recollections of Cassavetes' close friends, such as Peter Falk and Ben Gazarra. Accidental Genius is a fascinating account of a dynamic and driven man who said, 'It is not so important that people like your films. It's only important that you make something you like.' Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke
This book is strange. John Cassavetes was one of the most eccentric, outrageous, iconoclastic filmmakers and artists who ever lived, but he comes off here as almost boring. Marshall Fine tames the wild beast, mellows the barbaric yawp, cools the fever of his life and work. The craziness is absent. The demons are missing. The angel-headed hipster wisdom is gone. The manic dance has become a walk in the park. If you want to get closer to the wild man who made the movies, I'd recommend Ray Carney's Cassavetes on Cassavetes book or Carney's web site on the filmmaker, both of which contain most or all of the information about Cassavetes' life that is presented here as if Fine had discovered it, but which also communicate a feel of the man, a sense of what it was like to be around him, in a way that Fine doesn't. Carney's headnotes list the events and happenings in Cassavetes' life and his quotations capture the spirit of the artist in a way Fine never does. (Three fourths of Fine's biography seems to be just a light re-writing of Carney's headnotes anyway.) We are still waiting for the real biography that dares to take the gloves off and go beyond Entertainment Tonight notions of artistic creation.