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MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ

USA, 1971 (MIFF 1999, Mavericks)

Director: John Cassavetes

With its unlikely romantic entanglement between a car park attendant (Seymour Cassel) and former prom gueen Minnie (Gena Rowlands), now working as a museum assistant, Minnie and Moskowitz was applaud­ed by critics when it was first released as evidence that director John Cassavetes could mellow and unwind from what were pejoratively described as aimless explo­rations of society's misfits.

Although there are plenty of laughs, the film about romantic mismatches of the 'opposites attract' variety is not far removed from the quintessential Cassavetes world of life-and-death struggles revolving around lone­liness, idealism and friendship. Cassavetes plays Gerta's insensitive married lover, a selfish character who coasts along in the relationship until his own wife puts her foot down and dramatically demands an end to the liaison by threatening to commit suicide.

A yearning for an emotional truth in a confessional vein, rather than the glib platitudes that characterised so much of the Hollywood mainstream, remained a lifelong guest for the quintessential actors director. A master of staged 'improvisation', Cassavetes staged scenes in a seemingly haphazard style, encouraging his actors to interact spontaneously, despite the reality of an inten­sive rehearsal process and tightly scripted dialogue. Like Orson Welles, Cassavetes would take on indifferent acting assignments so as to be able to finance his per­sonal projects such as this one which, although backed by a major studio, was given a minimal release.

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