Monday, February 20, 2012

Los Angeles Cinema: Minnie and Moskowitz

Film: Minnie and Moskowitz
Where: Los Angeles at Cinefamily
Who with: Loner style
In attendance: Seymour Cassel
Rating: ***1/2
Rating for Cassel's mustache: *****!

I'm quite fond of actors who make a brave choice with audacious facial hair, be it an unruly beard or untrimmed mustache. Seymour Cassel sports one of cinema's great mustaches in the 1971 John Cassavetes comedy Minnie and Moskowitz. It's not only full, it droops such a great distance southward, he could have been dubbed "Catfish" or "Walrus" had he been a professional ballplayer. Check out the poster and the trailer below to get a dose of Cassel's impressive trucker style 'stache.

I know the following statement is going to seem like blasphemy to some film fans, but I've never been the biggest lover of Cassavetes' films. I have found them to be emotionally exhausting and sort of tedious watching his characters live out their overwrought relationships on the screen. Watch him put his wife, the nearly always amazing Gena Rowlands, through the wringer in films such as Faces, Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of A Chinese Bookie [well, she's not in that one] and you might admit to liking their intense raw quality, but you won't claim you had a good time. Minnie and Moskowitz on the other hand, while delivering the classic Cassavetes amounts of couples screaming, quasi-verbal and outright physical abuse, it has a level of quirky comedy running through it that makes it one of Cassavetes' more "enjoyable" movies.

Cassel plays "Seymour," an oddball New Yorker who moves to Los Angeles and resumes his career of parking cars for restaurants while hanging out at dives that serve hot dogs. Naturally, Pink's makes an appearance. I should be keeping track of these "Los Angeles Cinema" posts that include films with scenes at Pink's as this is at least the third one to feature the La Brea Avenue institution that is less than a mile from my apartment and people still line-up for at all hours of the day and night. Lots of good Los Angeles neon in this too, as "Seymour" drives around the city making u-turns whenever and wherever he wants. Defending the honor of "Minnie" [Rowlands, donning oversize sunglasses for too much of the film for some inexplicable reason that was beyond frustrating. I wanted to see Rowlands' face!] with a parking lot dust-up, the pair begin a tumultuous courtship [this is a Cassevetes film after all] that packs all kinds of ups and downs in a few days.

Minnie and Moskowitz has the manic Cassevetes-isms, but has a current of comedy and damaged sweetness to it that makes it my second favorite of his movies [Gloria from 1980 would actually be at the top even though I haven't seen it since I was eleven and didn't even know who John Cassevetes was when I saw it]. Rowlands taps into her aching, inner heart, where she's a woman worn down by the idea of love, romance and men. I wish to goodness she wouldn't have worn the oversized sunglasses throughout the film. For some inexplicable reason, she donned these glasses inside and out for  too many scenes. It was frustrating as I just wanted to see her expressive, beautiful face! Cassel just goes for it in his performance and has a twinkle in his eye throughout the film.

I'd seen Minnie and Moskowitz before, but wanted to attend the screening to hear Cassel talk about it and his career. The pre and post-screening Q & A really wasn't a Q & A, but an opportunity for Cassel to deliver stream of conscious memories of working on the film, Cassevetes and the film industry [best quote: I have loved working in this business except for when I have to work for an a*shole, and there are a lot of a*sholes in Hollywood]. I wanted to ask about the thought process and consideration that was given for that magnificent mustache, but there weren't many questions from the crowd as Cassel just talked on his own about whatever popped into his head.

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view the video.***


hidden staircase said...

not too long ago i watched 'in the soup' from 1992 that featured steve buscemi and mr. cassel. mr. c's character was great...and i could tell he is a real-life character as i could see him just going off on h-wood and the industry...

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I think he kind of plays "himself" a lot in some of the stuff I've seen him in. Such as IN THE SOUP or MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ. He's had a long career and been in a ton of stuff you've never really heard of.

hidden staircase said...

on the imdb it says he's known for wanting to do indies if he likes the script...for the cost of a plane ticket!