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Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Film Hardcover – 4 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax Books (4 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401352499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401352493
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 629,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book presents a fresh and intriguing look at the man whose movies made the independent film industry. One of the biggest stories in Hollywood in the past 20 years has been the rise of independent film. The man most responsible for its ethos is John Cassavetes. When Cassavetes died in 1989, the independent film industry lost its first figurehead. A prototypical outsider who rebelled against all conventions, Cassavetes established the foundations of an actor-based, seemingly improvised cinema of emotional truth and immediacy. His films - including "Shadows", "Faces", "A Woman Under the Influence", "Husbands" and "Love Streams" - are as challenging, infuriating and compelling as he was, often financed by Cassavetes' hiring himself out as an actor - in which capacity he made, rather like Orson Welles, a name for himself for his on-camera talent while his true genius, behind the camera, was relegated to the affections of an underground following.

With contributions from Peter Falk, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, John Sayles, Sidney Lumet and Charles During, as well as interviews with Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands and their children, "Accidental Genius" represents fully for the first time the complex life and influence of one of cinema's greatest unsung heroes.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Banville on 3 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
A brilliant insight into the world of a passionate, honest and gifted man. The film industry needs people like John Cassavetes to help it survive the money driven money men. Please Lord, send him back - we're missing him.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Reverential Biography of the Film Auteur Who Gave Rise to Independent American Cinema-Verité 14 Aug. 2006
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just saw one of John Cassavetes' early films as a director, 1963's "A Child Is Waiting", which he apparently disowned once producer Stanley Kramer edited it to make the story of mentally disabled children in a state-run institution a more sentimental movie. Despite Cassavetes' misgivings about the finished product, what remains has some truly unexpected moments of emotional honesty. Author Marshall Fine, film and TV critic for Star Magazine, has written a thorough, sometimes effusive biography of the film auteur who died in 1989. Cassavetes is most definitely a worthy subject for a comprehensive book, as he was a groundbreaking filmmaker who made gritty, low-budget independent films well before Sundance.

His style was polarizing, but there is no getting around the fact that he dared to go to places other filmmakers feared, primarily the dark spaces where self-pity and hurtful actions were predominant. Even though his favorite director was ironically the supreme optimist Frank Capra, Cassavetes liked exposing the chaotic nature of life among the middle classes and refused to tie up loose ends for the sake of a happy ending. Fine does an illuminating job of showing the filmmaker's psyche at work and how he kept the focus constantly on the actors, especially as he created an intimate environment where spontaneity was encouraged and prized. Lacking the desire for a more formal process, Cassavetes employed a hand-held, semi-documentary style to elicit the naturalism he wanted to capture even when it meant constant script rewrites.

The author also explores the downside of the filmmaker's work techniques: his quick temper, his megalomania, his lack of savvy in dealing with studio bosses. More importantly, Fine takes us behind the scenes on each of Cassavetes' films beginning with 1959's jazz-infused "Shadows" of which he did two versions. From there, we see him at work on such acknowledged classics as "Faces" and "A Woman Under the Influence" all the way through the end of his life when he took over from Andrew Bergman on 1989's "Big Trouble" as he was dying of cirrhosis of the liver. Recollections are meticulously detailed but do not feel extraneous. It's a fascinating career well documented by Fine, though I wish he could have been more critical on the finished films and more interested in letting us know who is carrying on Cassavetes' legacy.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Someone FINALLY Got it Right!! 18 April 2006
By MORTY S. TASHMAN - Published on
Format: Hardcover
After years of either being forgotten by the genral public or written about in the most pretentious, yawn-inducing dirges, author Marshall Fine finally got it right in his bio of actor/director John Cassavetes. The author's style is accesible, his subject fascinating and the theme is undeniable. Cassavetes is to independent cinema what Elvis Presley was to Rock and Roll: Neither one invented their respected venues but they definitely created the way in which they are percieved today.

Not only does the author give the man his due, but the freshly recounted anecdotes of Cassavetes' cohorts certainly brings the man back to life. No, it's not like having him in the room with you -- it's more like being at the Irish wake in which friends recount with a glass held high what it was that made the man so great.

To the naysayers who have already written about this book, what did you guys read?? Fine does not state that Cassavetes 'created' independent American films but is the progenitor, as in laying down the groundwork that others have followed. Before Ruth Orkin and Morris Engels, there was also independent black filmmaker Oscar Michenaux and Kenneth Anger, and countless others but the original consistency of effort and undeniable style belonged to Cassavetes alone. All hail the Acciental Genuis!!

One quibble: Why no index? It makes looking up remebered moments MUCH eaiser to find.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Genius of a biography 26 Jan. 2006
By Edward Gubman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Fine has given us a terrific, indepth view of Mr. Cassavetes, truly an original of the American cinema. I can recall, as Mr. Fine does in his book, being moved the first time I saw a Cassavetes film--there was nothing like it, even in the great film decade of the '70s. The author does a wonderful job of capturing both the power of the films and the struggle of Cassavetes to bring his vision to the screen. Students of the creative process will appreciate how Fine brings that to life also. He shows Cassavetes thought processes, including how he values the input of his friends and creative circle. Mr. Fine has a very accessible writing style that makes the reading enjoyable and easy. The sheer volume of facts covered in the book suggests that the author is an accomplished journalist as well as a movie lover.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A must for independent film makers 27 Jan. 2006
By budman27 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Marshall Fine is on to something here. Anyone who has aspirations to make an independent film owes it to themselves to read this book. Part inspiration, part determination and a huge dose of humanity, Accidental Genius delivers more than a look at Cassavetes the man. This is a "how to" masterpiece in a biographical wrapping. I loved it and am giving copies to all of my film-loving friends.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This Book Is Genius 26 Jan. 2006
By E. G. Flores - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Movie lovers, indie fans and film history buffs, have to check out Marshall Fine's Accidental Genius for the most compelling, insightful and entertaining book about the independent film industry I've ever read.
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