We watched "Opening Night", last night. I really enjoyed it. We're on a Cassavetes kick having seen "Shadows", and "A Woman Under the Influence" as well. I didn't really like Shadows much. It moved too slowly and some of the improvisation was odd. However, I can appreciate the fact that at the time that film was one of the first to take a more "natural" approach to film making and of course the story was pretty ahead of its time. It's about a light-skinned biracial woman who's boyfriend freaks out and breaks up with her when he discovers her racial background. Even though I'm a light-skinned biracial female, I couldn't identify with the woman or the story much in part because I can never identify with John Cassavetes characters -- in fact I often dislike them quite a bit. I have to keep reminding myself that I should not have to identify with the characters to enjoy the film and yet time and time again I fall into the same problem.
Likewise, I hated "A Woman Under the Influence" while I was watching it. I found it emotionally taxing watching the characters interact and falling apart. I just couldn't stand them! The acting is just incredibly good and feels very real with little of that film artifice and style that can tug at your heart strings in a somewhat artifical way and yet at the same time distance you emotionally from what's happening on screen. It just really bothered me. I couldn't sit still through the movie and kept getting up to pace around the apartment. But when it was over I had to admit it was one of the best films I've seen in a really long time.
Last nights"Opening Night" was another in a similar vein. I found myself streaming tears towards the end of the film and I'm not really sure why. It pulled at something in me but I'm not exactly sure what it was. Okay, well, I think part of it was that the story is about a woman actor who can't get into her character or the play because as she says, "It has no sense of hope about it. " The play is about aging, and she felt she wasn't ready to give up on hope yet. She keeps changing the lines on-stage in failed attempts to alter this play that is tearing her apart emotionally. By the end she does manage (even if it is kind of fucked up) to find and portray the hope that was missing.