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The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies (Cambridge Film Classics) Paperback – 21 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (21 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521388155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521388153
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,131,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


" is a special event...when Carney publishes a book that illustrates what film study and analysis can be at their most visionary and inspiring. Carney is clearly a born teacher....Every page of The Films of John Cassavetes is informed by the passion of a man on a mission to change the way movies are thought and written about. Carney has an extraordinarily exalted vision of the function of cinematic art. Film is, for him, neither escapist entertainment and recreation...nor an intricate stylistic game played off to one side of life...but a way of exploring the most important and complex aspects of human experience." Diane Cherkerzian, The Boston Globe

"One of the most exciting aspects of this book is the impression it conveys that absolutely everything is open to reappraisal and revaluation....Not the least innovative aspect of Carney's writing is the degree to which it is radically interdisciplinary, and he sketches a series of strikingly original (yet persuasive) connections between Cassavetes' work and that of other American artists and thinkers....I turned the pages, almost holding my breath at moments, startled by the depth, power and unexpectedness of the argument, emotionally suspended between exhilaration and fear." Diane Cherkerzian, The Boston Globe

"...reflects not only years of devotion to Cassavetes' work but also numerous conversations and interviews that the author had with the filmmaker, his colleagues and his friends....Carney's descriptions...are reinforced by the many photographs he provides of Cassavetes energetically working on scenes and individual moments with his actors and crew....Far from mere illustrations of the text, however, these 'inside photos'--published in this book for the first time--reinforce the focus of Carney's book." Filmmaker

"Carney's approach to Cassavetes is shaped by the depth and discipline of scholarly analysis, and also by the out-and-out enthusiasm of a movie-lover writing about some of his favorite pictures." The Christian Science Monitor

"There is plenty of sturdy analysis here and. . . Carney makes a strong case for his subject." Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

The first book to tell in detail the story of a maverick filmmaker who worked outside the studio system. providing extended critical discussion on six of his most important films.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Carney's book is scientific writing at its best. The book, despite the level of abstraction, is totally captivating. A lot of connections to sociological theories (pragmatism) are used to penetrate the characters and C:s way of filming (as well as interesting observations about Hitchcock and Orson Welles). Also, this is a book about being human as much as it is about the films of Cassavetes. The book is well structured with one film and analysis per chapter. I'm not a film student but I learned a lot from reading this. Highly recommended!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars 10 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Noam Chomsky of film's expressive manifesto. 4 Sept. 1998
By langdonboom - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book changed my life. It wasn't a pretty experience, either. I argued with it. I dismissed it. I fought it tooth and nail. But in the end, reading this book and seeing the films it discusses represented the single most important educational, emotional, and artistic experience I've ever had. I tell you, the thing is a mental a-bomb. I broke down. It literally caused me a crisis of the faith regarding everything that I though I knew or held dear about filmmaking, and maybe even the world. I lost friends. Not only does this book chronicle in deep, loving detail the films, working methods, and world-view of one of the most important (yet underappreciated) filmmakers in American cinematic history, it is a manifesto, articulating and illustrating an entirely original and brain re-wiring theory of flimmaking, present in the films of John Cassavetes; a theory at odds with 99% of the films EVER MADE. Everything you though you knew is suspect in the glaring light of Ray Carney's prose. Forget Citizen Kane. Forget Cassablanca. Forget Vertigo. They're like fingerpaintings next to a Piccaso. Neither lightweight nor academically verbose for its own sake, Carney's tone is as friendly as if he were chatting with you over a beer, yet what he says is nothing short of revolutionary. It was simple: I was blown away. Finding precedent for Cassavetes' work in the long-standing American Romantic tradition of Walt Whitman, Emerson, William James, John Dewey and others, Carney's book gives film its proper due as the greatest 20th century artform. An artform, it suggests, still in its infancy. What Cassavetes' films did to me was simple and profound -- they showed me a new way to expereince the world. A new attitude. A new awareness. Carney did the same thing, articulating those ways, and celebrating them with the reader. I read a lot of film books, but this is the beat-up, dog-eared one I go back to time and time again. No plain-jane film text is as insightful or inspirational. Read it and you will never be the same again. I wasn't.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy ordeal 28 Feb. 2000
By Martin Doudoroff - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'd like to corroborate Matthew Langdon's review (above or below this one). I had the advantage of having Ray Carney as a professor at Boston University. By some stroke of genius (possibly by administrative accident), all entering film students were required to take a survey course from him on film art before taking anything else. Carney started with warhorses like Hitchcock's "Psycho" and made the roomful of us (vocally) do exercises during the screening that exposed the highly polished but rather ridiculously superficial artifice of the "classic film". We all thought he was crazy. Here was this man -- that one friend described as a combination of Andy Warhol and Orville Reddenbacher -- unsubtly undermining a number of the most globally revered films. He then paraded a host of highly experimental films (many from the library of Congress that practically noone outside of a Carney class has ever or will ever see) before us that were appallingly difficult and often downright confrontational. It's pretty safe to say that practically none of us really "got it" until long after that semester, possibly years. At some point I did. Carney loves film just like we all do, however he had recognized something that we (and, most likely, you, too) had not, that film can be so much more than anything we had imagined (or yet been exposed to). That's largely what he wanted to show us in this class. Film is still a nascent art, highly immature in scope and depth. So far, Cassavetes -- one of the EASIER filmmakers Carney introduced us to -- is one of the handful of film artists that has done something deeply new with the form since its inception. If you develop an interest in Cassavetes, you will find this book essential, and you will return to it after every screening.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a refreshing, provocative analysis of some beautiful work 9 Jun. 1999
By A customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Carney offers an utterly convincing critical analysis of the great artist's work. The author compares Cassavetes to Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Dewey in consciousness-shifting ways useful to anyone interested in media, culture, philosophy, and art.
Now, Carney, the leading Cassavetes expert, MUST (I hope) offer the definitive biography of this great artist: clearly one of the most original, courageous, and mature American filmmakers.
See Cassavetes's work on video ("A Woman Under the Influence" and "Love Streams" are absolutely wonderful; shockingly good), and then read this book. I heartily endorse it and sincerely hope for that definitive biography.
Viva Cassavetes (and Carney)!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read it without support 9 May 2000
By Ben T-S - Published on
Format: Paperback
Almost everything Carney says, you tend to utterly hate him for at first. His most recent article seemed so pessimistic that I spent an hour in my apartment, sitting in front of the TV depressed by it all.
Everything Carney writes tends to be tough at first, because, like Cassavetes, he mentions truths about life that very few people wish to confront. There is no evasion of reality in this book. People can be horrible to each other. We all die in the end. That's life.
Carney doesn't analyse Cassavetes' work in relation to other movies and cultural trends (as most film professors tend to do), but prefers to focus entirely on the performances of the characters on screen. Like Cassavetes, he never really explains the characters' motivations, but instead focuses on how they react to their environments. Everything he writes is about life -- you'll find nothing about tendentious compositions, popular culture, or auteur theory. The only important thing here is Carney's love for the characters and their creator.
One of the greatest books ever written on American film.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very interesting and important book 6 Sept. 2003
By S. Katz - Published on
Format: Paperback
I originally got this book and read the whole thing, before i had seen any of cassavetes movies. This is not a recommended route. I have now seen all of his films, except for husbands, and i can't tell you how amazing i think the importance of this book is. I wonder what the ratio is between the people who disagree and agree with it's context, in respect to it's attitude towards american cinema. the book really does rewire your brain. The people who i am friends with, who are also interested in film are dumb founded when ever i casually undermine 2001 or citizen kane in a conversation. More importantly though, this book, like Cassavetes films, extends into life and actually opens you up to knew spiritual territory
you didn't think about. One last point: Does any one notice how suprisingly objective Carney is when he mentions his most hated film makers like Spielberg ? Get this book. It may feel too intellectual, but it really isn't. If you think that then you are reading it too quickly and not thinking about what it's actually saying.
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