This page describes Ray Carney's discovery of a new long print of Faces. To read about Ray Carney's discovery of the long-lost first version of Shadows, click here.

The first version of Shadows and the long version of Faces are two of Ray Carney's most important artistic finds, but Professor Carney has made a name for himself as the discoverer and presenter of many other new and unknown works of art. To read about a few of his other cinematic and literary finds, click here.

To read about other unknown Cassavetes material (including recording studio master tapes and an unknown film by Cassavetes) Ray Carney has discovered, click here.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, including a chronological listing of the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny or suppress Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

Click here for best printing of text

December 10, 2001
PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release

Lost and Found Department
A Previously Unknown Version of John Cassavetes's Independent Masterwork Faces

Maverick actor-writer-director John Cassavetes has been called the spiritual father of American independent filmmaking. Because he made most of his movies outside the studio system and financed them himself (paid for with his salary as an actor in other directors' films), he was free from the normal constraints that limit most American filmmakers. He could make movies about anything he wanted. He could take as long as he wanted to shoot them. And he could spend as much time as he needed to edit them—changing his mind as he went along. At least when it involved his non-studio work, Cassavetes made films the way poets write or painters paint. There were no commercial deadlines or bureaucratic compromises. The film wasn't finished until he was finished with it.

Cassavetes's home movie/feature film, Faces, is a case in point. When it was released in 1968, it was not only heralded as a turning point in the independent movement—the first time a noncommercial movie had been embraced by a mass American audience; but it was celebrated as one of the major works of American film art. Renata Adler's pronouncement in The New York Times can stand for all. She called Faces: "Far and away the strongest, bluntest, most important American movie of the year ... a motion picture so good one can hardly believe it." Notwithstanding the non-Hollywood nature of the production, Faces went on to garner three Academy Award nominations.

The movie had been created in an entirely different way from a Hollywood feature. It had been filmed in Cassavetes's home. The actors had worked for nothing. Cassavetes had lavished six months on the shooting process (as opposed to the six or eight weeks Hollywood would have devoted to a comparable low-budget film), shooting an unprecedented hundred and fifteen hours of footage. He had then spent more than two years tinkering with the edit—in the final six months, screening different assemblies to see how audiences reacted to different edits.

Faces went through five or six completely different assemblies, with different scenes, different shot selections within scenes, different mood music, and different running times for each version. For the past thirty-four years, the conventional wisdom has been that Cassavetes destroyed all of the alternative assemblies at the point he settled on the final release print.

Enter Ray Carney, Professor of Film and American Studies at Boston University, who is generally regarded as the world's authority on Cassavetes's life and work. He maintains a web site devoted to the filmmaker, and has published many books on him. The most recent is the monumental 550-page Cassavetes on Cassavetes, based on conversations with Cassavetes in the final decade of his life. Roger Ebert praised it as "a labor of love, scholarship, and detective work. From a chaotic mountain of primary and secondary sources, Ray Carney has shaped the story of John Cassavetes' life and work—using the words of the great director himself, and also calling on his colleagues and friends to supply their memories and revelations. 'This is the autobiography he never lived to write,' Carney says, but it is more: Not only the life story, but history, criticism, homage, lore. Like a Cassavetes film, it bursts with life and humor, and then reveals fundamental truths."

In late summer, Carney was paging through the Library of Congress's on-line catalogue and noticed an unexplained discrepancy. The Library owned several prints of Faces, but one of them was catalogued as having the wrong length. Each of the entries for the film should have read approximately the same length—around 11,600 feet (129 minutes); but one clocked in at 13,110 feet (147 minutes). When Carney contacted staff members at the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress, he was told it was probably just a clerical error. But he said he felt in his bones that it just might be one of the "lost" alternate edits of the film.

"I was busy with lectures and speaking engagements nearly every week of the fall; but in late October and early November, after four days at the Virginia Film Festival and a series of visiting lectures at Hollins University, I squeezed in a side trip to the Library of Congress—to see for myself. When I put the print on the Steenbeck, I realized within seconds that I was not looking at a cataloguer's error."

Carney, who says he knows the film shot-by-shot by heart, said the tip-off was not only that the print began with a long credit crawl that is not in the released version (which holds its credits until the end), but that, even more interestingly, the credits in this print included names of actors whose scenes are not in the release print as well as titles of musical pieces not in the final film. "The evidence from the credits alone was so conclusive, and I was so excited, that I stopped the film before the first scene had appeared on screen and told staff members what they had had sitting in storage unknown to them for so many years, waiting to be discovered."

Carney says that the print has many differences from the release version. "The Library of Congress print has 18 minutes of entirely new footage at the start—different scenes, characters, and events that are not in the release print. That additional material accounts for the longer running time. But the differences don't end there. Each of the major scenes is presented in a slightly different assembly from the release version, with slightly different shots and different lines of dialogue at various points. The most striking additional difference (beyond the different beginning scenes) is in a long scene in the middle of the movie (the McCarthy and Jeannie scene for those who know the film).

"Since the Library of Congress print is not in a rough or unfinished state, as the presence of a finished credits sequence—one of the last things to be added to a movie—indicates, it seems likely that it represents one of Cassavetes's final versions; in fact, it may have been intended to be the release version."

Carney summarizes the artistic importance of the discovery: "Faces is one of the seminal masterworks of American independent film. It is to the American independent movement what The Passion of Joan of Arc is to silent film or The Rules of the Game is to French cinema. It's an historical landmark and a turning point. The location of an alternate version is of clear historical importance. But the discovery has a significance greater than an archeological one. A comparison of the two versions of Faces provides an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes into the workshop of the artist. We can eavesdrop, as it were, on Cassavetes's creative process—watching his mind at work as he experiments with different ways of telling his story and with different stylistic effects, like the strange use of music in the McCarthy scene. Cassavetes's revisions provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the heart and mind of one of the most important filmmakers of the past fifty years. It's no exaggeration to compare this discovery to finding a version of Citizen Kane with a new beginning and a different shot selection."

In one of those ironic twists that occasionally take place in the search for lost masterpieces, some time after his discovery of this new long print of Faces, Prof. Carney realized that, in all likelihood, he had personally been responsible for its being in the Library of Congress collection. The story goes as follows. Several years before his visit to the Library of Congress, Prof. Carney received a letter from a company in charge of the liquidation of an old, discontinued film warehouse. It informed him that rather than simply throwing out old, unclaimed footage that had been left in storage, the company was attempting to return the material to whoever they could locate who might be interested in having it. Since Prof. Carney was the acknowledged world's expert on John Cassavetes' work, the company offered Prof. Carney the cans of Cassavetes material that had been left in the warehouse. In this collection of material were several cans labeled Faces. The liquidation company offered Prof. Carney the opportunity to pick up the material personally or have it shipped to a location of his choice. Since he did not have storage or preservation facilities, Carney declined the gift and instructed the company representative to get in contact with the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress. He told the company that the Library of Congress would be in a better position to preserve and protect the material than he was. Of course at that time, Prof. Carney did not realize that he was turning down and passing along an alternate print of the film. But based on what he has been able to learn about the acquisition history of the print he viewed, the print described above, it appears to have been the very material offered to him, the very print he was personally responsible for turning over to the Library of Congress, a few years before. The Gods must have been looking out for him after that. It was poetic justice that Prof. Carney would be the one to find the gift he had put in the hands of the Library.

To read a press account of the discovery click here.

For more information about the making of Faces and the alternate edits, see:

Ray Carney, Cassavetes on Cassavetes: (Faber and Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), pp. 185-190 and 132-145.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, including a chronological listing of the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny or suppress Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

The opinion of Harmony Korine, writer-director of Kids, Gummo, Julian Donkey-Boy about Ray Carney's Cassavetes on Cassavetes:

"THE BEST FILM BOOK EVER WRITTEN."


The opinion of Xan Cassavetes, John Cassavetes' daughter and the director of Z Channel and other works, about Ray Carney's Cassavetes on Cassavetes, as relayed to Carney by a friend in Los Angeles (stars indicate omitted personal material):

"I am still in LA, working on *** , which is coming along. Real progress. This evening saw Z CHANNEL, a new documentary by Xan Cassavetes. *** I spoke with her after the screening. I thought you might like to know that she absolutely loves CASS ON CASS. Says she sleeps with it. Says it's enabled her to have conversations with her father she never had."

To find out how to obtain this book, click here.

Top of Page

Text Copyright 2004 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.