Opening Night [DVD]
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A John Cassavetes classic, in which Gena Rowlands plays a successful actress who witnesses the accidental death of a teenage fan outside the theatre where she is performing. As time moves on, she finds herself haunted by the conviction that she is to blame for the death, and when her role in a new play begins to mirror her real life situation she begins to crack up under the strain. Cassavetes stars opposite wife Rowlands as her on/off lover.
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What follows is a painful look at what acting is, where the meaning of the performance comes from, the possible role of excess in getting to the performance (Myrtle is practically an alcoholic), what makes acting great, how there can be a conflict with the material, and how the writer may have to accept the ego and charisma of the star and accommodate it. The playwright here is played by Joan Blondell, very adroitly. The play is, to a large extent, about her own ageing, but she has accepted this, being a good 20-odd years older than Myrtle (she tells her she's 68). One might wonder why Myrtle accepted the role in the first place, but the point is to explore all this ambiguity. Cassavetes does this with an openness of gesture and freedom in the development of the scenes that is amazing. Gena Rowlands in the lead is astonishing, her performance seems at times to totter on the edge of the laughable, but she reins it back with her sheer conviction and that indefinable charisma that makes you think people of this kind of talent need to be indulged a bit, because of what they can give to the rest of us through their art. But there are no conclusions - just a fascinating 'laying bare' of the emotional and artistic paradigm.
Almodovar based an early scene in All About My Mother on the very similar one here showing the car accident, and explored some of the same themes in the rest of the film. He also dedicated it to Gena Rowlands and two other actresses in his personal pantheon.
The main character is Myrtle Gordon (played by a wonderful Gena Rowlands),a famous actress that is unable to cop with the death of a young admirer, killed in an accident near her. As if that were enough, Myrtle is afraid of really playing her part in a new play, due to the fact that she is supposed to be a woman that is getting old, something that she knows is true in real life. How does Myrtle cope with her fear of aging, and her remorse for not being there for her fan? What if she feels she is not able to act anymore? Too many questions, and answers that can be found in this film.
On the whole, I can say that I really enjoyed "Opening night". Watching this movie is not easy, but once you finish it you realize why it is worthwhile to do so...
If you can, watch "Opening night" before "All about your mother", as Almodovar's movie was partly inspired on this film.
I felt sorry for Myrtle when I saw the film and how she broke down after the death of her teenage fan. One is sympathetic towards her as you realise her life is not that happy in spite of her fame and and achievements, she has sacrificed marriage and motherhood for her art, she has a drink problem,age is creeping up on her and for 'older,'actresses acting parts are limited and she is haunted by images of the dead teenage girl appearing before her.
Opening Night is a good film and I would recommend this film to anyone to see as an example of John Cassavetes' fine talent as a director.The film has an impressive supporting cast of actors such as Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell and Cassavetes himself plus cameo appearances from other Cassavetes regulars such as Seymour Cassel and Peter Falk. It is one of the few films made that truly examines the emotional ups and downs of an actor's life and the pressure of life in the public eye.
I'm docking it one star because the transfer is not perfect. Colour and detail are good, but there is a little bit of damage (specks, splotches, lines) every now and again. These problems could have been fixed. If you have a small TV you won't notice these problems. I'm only pointing them out because I have a projector, which tends to magnify visual problems.
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