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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • 17-minute alternate opening sequence, from an early edit of the film
  • Cinťastes de notre temps (1968, 48 minutes): an episode from the French television series dedicated to Cassavetes, featuring rare interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
  • Making Faces: A new documentary including interviews with actors Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel, Gena Rowlands, and director of photography Al Ruban
  • Lighting & Shooting the Film: Ruban explains how he and the crew achieved the distinct look of Faces, illustrated with specific sequences from the film

Faces

Individual Release
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John Cassavetes
Starring: John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin, Fred Draper, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery
1968 | 130 Minutes | Licensor: Castle Hill Productions

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #252
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 10, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

The disintegration of a marriage is dissected in John Cassavetes' searing Faces. Shot in high-contrast 16mm black and white, the film follows the futile attempts of captain of industry Richard (John Marley) and his wife, Maria (Lynn Carlin), to escape the anguish of their empty marriage in the arms of others. Featuring astonishingly powerful, nervy performances from Marley, Carlin, and Cassavetes regulars Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel, Faces confronts suburban alienation and the battle of the sexes with a brutal honesty and compassion rarely matched in cinema.

Forum members rate this film 7.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Previously released exclusively in Criterionís John Cassavetes: Five Films box set, Criterion now releases their edition of Faces separate from that set, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has also been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Like the individual release of Shadows (and I assume the previously released Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie,) this release is an exact copy of the edition found in the box set, just with different packaging. The image is the same, the audio is the same, the supplements (other than the booklet) are the same, and even the menus are the same.

So just like with that box set release, Criterionís Faces presents a lovely looking picture. Sharpness and detail is very strong, staying consistent throughout the running time of the film. Contrast looks perfect, with strong grays, and nice deep blacks.

Damage is surprisingly minimal. Because the image is so sharp film grain is very prominent throughout (it was shot on 16mm film) and though this isnít an issue for me I feel I should point it out. But damage to the print is limited to a few marks small pieces of debris scattered throughout.

So, while itís the exact same transfer as the one found in the Cassavetes box set this isnít a bad thing. The image looks rather incredible for a 40+ year old independent feature shot on 16mm. Itís a stunning black and white presentation.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The disc presents the film in Dolby Digital mono. It sounds okay but is limited by the source materials. The documentary included on this release explains they had problems recording the sound and because of this there are some segments that are out of synch. Cheap clip-on microphones were also used to record a majority of the track and because of this the audio can sound a little distorted and can have a slight echo. Considering these limitations the audio still comes off sounding rather good, if not great. You can at least still make out all of the dialogue and the music is strong. Considering the materials and the filmís shooting conditions it sounds better than it probably should.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Of all the releases found in the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set Faces was probably the best of the bunch when it came to supplements (though The Killing of a Chinese Bookie does contain an alternate version of the film.) And on its own it still proves to be a solid release.

To allow for the best possible image quality there are no supplements found on the first disc, housing only the film. The supplements are all found on the second dual-layer disc.

The big feature would probably be the 17-minute alternate opening, presenting a slightly different timeline. It actually opens with Richard and Maria joking around in bed together, then cuts to the film screening, and then cuts to an additional scene that takes place in a bar where Richard and his buddy actually pick up the Gena Rowlands character, which was not in the finished film, as a whole anyways (the sequence in the film actually just starts with them leaving.) Apparently there are more differences throughout the film, but Criterion states this is the most significant one (according to notes Iíve seen online, specifically from Ray Carney, the original cut ran somewhere around 3 and a half hours.) In all honesty, based at least on this opening, I prefer how the film turned out, excising the sequence. It would have been interesting to see the complete extended version, which Carney apparently tried to get included only to have Rowlands stop it, but this is a nice alternative (especially since, really, to fit the longer version it would have required a third disc and a higher price for the release.)

A 41-minute documentary on the making of the film, called Making Faces.This gathers together actors Seymour Cassel, Gena Rowlands, and Lynn Carlin, along with director of photography Al Ruban for a collection of interviews. This is a great documentary that doesn't just offer a look into the film, but also offers information about what it was like working with Cassavetes as well. I enjoyed listening to the anecdotes about their group, and about the shooting and editing, and you do feel that everyone involved definitely misses it. You may even catch yourself getting teary eyed when Cassel does. Thereís a lot of good stuff in here on the technical aspects of the film and how Cassavetes put his films together, and still manages to stay interesting even though itís primarily made up of ďtalking heads.Ē

Another treat are a couple of segments from a French television series called Cineastes de Notre Temps, presenting interviews with director John Cassavetes. They first interviewed him in 1965 before the completion of Faces, and then again in 1968, after the film was completed and shown in a few areas. You can watch the whole program as one or you can watch each part individually. It offers a lot of insight into Cassavetes and how he works out of the Hollywood system (while still, in a way, being part of it) and how he gets the money for his films (charge it!) He's a very amusing and very charismatic man so it's easy to listen to him, especially since you can tell he's excited about what he does. The first part interviews him in Hollywood (where we see his workshop) and the second part in Paris. Surprisingly they talk more about his first film, Shadows, than Faces. Since we actually get to see his work shop and get a peak at his actual process this probably makes for the best supplement on the disc. The first segment lasts 23-minutes, while the second lasts 25-minutes for a total of 48-minutes.

And then we come to a mostly text feature where Al Ruban describes the techniques in capturing the look of the film. There's a text intro by Ruban, as well as a list of equipment used in making the film. Then there is a multi-media presentation showing clips from the film and then displaying text underneath as to how they managed to capture the look. This runs 10-minutes or so.

A booklet is also included and contains an essay on the film by Shawn Klawans. The original Cassavetes set included a rather large booklet, containing a large collection of essays and writings on the films in the set. It was divided into sections, each section covering a specific film. That booklet contained two essays for Faces, one by Klawans (the one found here) and then a written piece on the film by Cassavetes. Unfortunately that piece is not included here. Iím unsure as to why itís not included here since the individual release of Shadows contained a piece on that film by Cassavetes.

Despite the lack of the one essay Criterionís Faces DVD is the best of Criterionís Cassavetes discs. While each release offers a wonderful look at their respective films I felt this one offered a more fulfilling look at how Cassavetes worked and thereís a definite joy to everything, as if there was nothing better than making movies and making them the way Cassavetes did. None of it was a chore to sit through.

8/10

CLOSING

Of all of the titles found in the Criterion Cassavetes box set I think this one is my favourite, and itís now available on its own. For those that already own the box set thereís no reason to purchase this release: Itís exactly the same in every respect other than packaging. But for those that do not own that set and want the film they shouldnít hesitate in picking this up. Itís a wonderful release with a rather stunning transfer and a great collection of supplements. A high recommendation from me.


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