"When I hear the term “independent filmmaker,” I immediately think of John Cassavetes. He was the most independent of them all. For me, he was and still is a guide and teacher. Without his support and advice, I don’t know what would have be…come of me as a filmmaker. The question, ‘What is an independent filmmaker?’ has nothing to do with being inside or outside of the industry or whether you live in New York or Los Angeles. It’s about determination and strength, having the passion to say something that’s so strong that no one or nothing can stop you. Whenever I meet a young director who is looking for guidance and advice, I tell him or her to look to the example of John Cassavetes, a source of the greatest strength. John made it possible for me to think that you could actually make a movie—which is crazy, because it’s an enormous endeavor, and you only realize how enormous when you’re doing it. But by then it’s too late.
Nothing could have stopped Cassavetes except God, and He eventually did. John died much too soon, but his films and his example are still very much alive. He once said, “You can’t be afraid of anyone or anything if you want to make a movie.” It’s that simple. You have to be as tough as he was. He was a force of nature. "
John Cassavetes, on the opening day of one of his psychodramas, grabbed me as I came out of the theatre and hoisted me, and as I hung there helpless in his grip, my tootsies dangling at least three feet from the sidewalk, his companions, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk, were chuckling. Cassavetes was saying “Love ya, Pauline, just love ya,” and I felt that he wanted to crush every bone in my body.
I’ve never seen an exploding helicopter. I’ve never seen anybody go and blow somebody’s head off. So why should I make films about them? But I have seen people destroy themselves in the smallest way. I’ve seen people withdraw. I’ve seen people hide behind political ideas, behind dope, behind the sexual revolution, behind fascism, behind hypocrisy, and I’ve myself done all these things. In our films what we are saying is so gentle. It’s gentleness. We have problems, terrible problems, but our problems are human problems.
Effi Briest, or many people are aware of their own capabilities and needs, yet acquiesce to the prevailing system in their thoughts and deeds, thereby confirming and reinforcing the system.
Effie Briest, Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1974
You know, I think that movies are a conspiracy…because they set you up…They set you up from the time you’re a little kid. They set you up to believe in everything…in ideals and strength and good guys and romance and, of course, love…So you go out, you start looking. Doesn’t happen, you keep looking. You get a job and you spend a lot of time fixing up things, your apartment and jazz. And you learn how to be feminine, you know, quotes: “feminine”? You learn how to cook…But there’s no Charles Boyer in my life. I never even met a Charles Boyer. I never met Clark Gable. I never met Humphrey Bogart…I mean, they don’t exist, that’s the truth. But the movies set you up and no matter how bright you are, you believe it.
Minnie and Moskowitz, John Cassavetes 1971
I went to my father and said, “I don’t want to go to college. I want to be an actor and go to this school.” That was a lie, of course; I just wanted to be near all those girls. My mother said, “An actor?!” But my father—he was very disappointed about my leaving college—said, “At least it’s something, let him be something!”
Then he gave me this very solemn look and I thought, “Oh my God, I’m really going to get it.” And he said, “That’s a very noble thing to do. Do you know what kind of responsibility that is? You are going to be representing the lives of human beings. You will speak for all the people who have no voice.”
John Cassavetes was totally fearless, almost unnaturally so. I never saw him depressed, I saw him angry, which they say is the other side of depression, but he was very sure and not particularly influenced by anything anybody said. Our pictures made people feel very uncomfortable much of the time. The characters were very emotionally exposed and people weren’t used to it. Everything was not spelled out. The old tradition was that you prepared the audience but with our films you had to just sit there and hold on to your seats. Some people like that and some don’t.
— Gena Rowlands
“The excitement of making a film is a mystery. If I knew anything about men and women to begin with I wouldn’t make it, because it would bore me.”
“People have forgotten how to relate or respond; what I’m trying to do with my movies is build something audiences can respond to.”
“The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to. As an artist, I feel that we must try many things – but above all we must dare to fail. You must be willing to risk everything to really express it all”
Remembering John Cassavetes
“And the rest of the stuff doesn’t really interest me… I have a one-track mind, all I’m really interested in… Is love.”
Cassavetes’ films are every bit as searing and brash as he was, but in this brief clip from Martin Scorsese’s A Personal Journey Through American Movies, Cassavetes candidly reveals that his career was ultimately devoted to the pursuit of something tender beneath it all.