This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity. To learn how to obtain the book, please click here.

To read about Ray Carney's discovery of a long version of Faces, click here. To read about the press response to the Faces discovery, click here. To read about Gena Rowlands's response to Prof. Carney's Faces discovery, click here.

Ray Carney's John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity

Excerpts from the discussion of Faces

Click here for best printing of text

Faces, which is beyond all doubt or dispute one of the two or three supreme masterworks in American film, came out of one of the most troubled times in Cassavetes’ life. In the early 1960s, after his first independent feature, Shadows, got some favorable attention, the filmmaker was offered the opportunity to make films in Hollywood. Naive as he was, he thought his dream had come true. He moved from New York to Los Angeles believing he could do the same thing he had done as an indy—only this time with a decent budget, a professional crew, and a studio support system.

The result, needless to say, was not what he had expected. The first project, Too Late Blues, was rocky going, and the second, A Child Is Waiting, was an absolute disaster. Cassavetes had a series of clashes with the producer, Stanley Kramer—one of the most powerful men in Hollywood—which not only resulted in the movie being taken away from him and re–edited, but in him being blackballed from working again. Cassavetes was unemployed and unemployable. He went back to his big, new house, and for the next couple years, in his own words, "looked at trees ... and learned patience."

The young actor–director had never met these kinds of people before—high–octane executives whose principal interest was money and power. Art was a dirty word to these guys, and emotion just a way to suck dollars out of viewers’ pockets. Cassavetes was young, idealistic, and inexperienced, and had such a different perspective on life that even after the dust had settled he couldn’t really understand why they’d treated him the way they had.

But where the person aches, the artist makes. Rather than just forgetting the whole excruciating episode, Cassavetes decided to make a movie about the people who had made him so miserable. He told me he made Faces to try to figure out what made these guys tick—how they could be so entertaining and so much fun to be with in some ways, and so awful in others. He wanted to understand how they acted when they were home eating supper with their wives. He wanted to understand what their sex lives were like. He wanted to get inside their hearts and heads.

That, in fact, is the essence of Cassavetes’ method. Each of his films is an effort of sympathetic understanding, an act of empathy. The goal is not to stand outside and judge (in the Altman way), but to go inside and understand. Cassavetes’ supreme achievement in all of his work is his ability to enter deeply and sympathetically into his characters’ points of view, as strange or different from his own as they might be—from figures as emotionally withdrawn and guarded as Love Streams’ Robert Harmon and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’s Cosmo, to ones as terrifyingly vulnerable and open as A Woman Under the Influence’s Mabel. To do this is to inhabit "otherness" in a sense far more profound than is dreamt of by the multiculturalists. It is to get so deeply inside "otherness" that you ultimately transform it into "us–ness."


This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity. To learn how to obtain the book, please click here.

Top of Page

Photographs by Sam Shaw and Larry Shaw are used by special arrangement. They may not be used on other sites or otherwise reproduced. All ownership and copyrights are retained by Shaw Family Archives, LTD. More information is available at: and

© Text Copyright 2003 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.