Faces doesn’t function like average cinema. It doesn’t contain the same three-act structure and hero’s journey setup that audiences have been accustomed to. Instead, Faces is a film built upon several characters’ feelings. John Cassavetes, the renowned director of the film, presents minute amounts of information detailing the backstories of these individuals, as he finds greater importance in their unforeseen emotions. The scenes, and likewise plot of the film, are meant to portray how a character is feeling during a small chapter in the narrative. One brilliant chapter illustrates an individual’s annoyance at another person while having a dinner party. This singular feeling of irritation at another character fabricates the entirety of the scene. From the blocking, to the off-kilter framing, Cassavetes puts the utmost emphasis on the emotions of the scene, not so much the plot. It’s almost as if Cassavetes drives the entirety of the film on these singular emotions and feelings, slowly pivoting them into the next scene.
Cassavetes has presented fragments of this underlining focus on emotion in previous films, albeit not nearly as extreme. In his 1959 debut, Shadows, Cassavetes writes a number of scenes that draw attention to the emotion of the characters present. Though they aren’t as important as in Faces, it still exhibits this unique brand of filmmaking that Cassavetes was beginning to spearhead. From then after, Cassavetes would continue to shine light on this fascination with human emotion portrayed in his later films. In Too Late Blues, this distinct construction of scenes occurs once more. While the film is very clearly driven on its story and narrative, Cassavetes manages to sneak in some of these off-brand scenarios. It wasn’t until Faces that the filmmaker diminished his previous style of filmmaking for an entirely new and more raw manner of directing.
Faces was greatly praised by 1960s critics, particularly those of “Cahier du Cinema.” These French critics, like Godard and Truffaut, quickly proved their interest for Cassavetes, being somewhat given since their rebellious forms often paralleled each other. They would continue to influence one another, with Truffaut expressing this newfound interest in Day for Night. Likewise, Cassavetes also learned a great deal from the films of the French New Wave, indictive in his later film A Woman Under the Influence. It is often remarked that Cassavetes perhaps resembles a figure of international cinema although spending all of his life and work in the US. His traits are derived from all parts of the world, all accumulating into something remarkably new.
With his exceptionally diverse and innovative filmography, Cassavetes clearly represented the status of American cinema at his time. Amidst the 1960s cultural revolution, directors took influence from this mix and blend of the arts and presented it in their films. And as a result, such films as Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate gained mass notoriety and popularity, in turn helping to influence even more filmmakers to step out of the realm of contemporary film. Cassavetes, through his continuously impressive combination of both American and international filmmaking, clearly proved himself to be the leading figure in an era best categorized for its instability and change.
Time Stamp: July 2022