It’s sometimes unfortunate when cinema is as unaffecting as Faces was to me. I started this marathon with the highest of hopes. This isn’t me saying I’m about to jump ship, but it’s at the very least put a very weary notion on me blindly entering the French New Wave – as I’ve only seen a few films from that genre.
With Shadows, Too Late Blues and A Child Is Waiting I was all disappointed but somehow they all gave me a different side of Cassavetes as a filmmaker. Shadows was his experimental freshman effort, Too Late Blues was the first time he tried to give a strict narrative to his films and A Child Is Waiting was his first foray into a solidified Hollywood studio structure. Faces feels more like Cassavetes returning to his experimental phase with more confidence and that’s what scares me. If this is what it looks like when he’s allowed to roam free and is more intent in his results then I’m not too sure what I can expect from the rest of his cannon.
The film shows us the relationship of Richard Frost (John Marley) and Maria (Lynn Carlin). There is something wrong in their marriage and the both of them feel the need to take a break. With that Richard starts seeing Jeannie (Gena Rowlands) and Maria starts seeing Chet (Seymour Cassel).
Faces is presented in a very intimate setting. With Cassavetes making the film in a style that allows for very little room for anything other than performance the story, which is muddled at best, is left by the wayside. The simple idea of the disjointed marriage and the needing man and woman seeking love elsewhere is easily set up. However, the motivations behind them are hardly substantiated. Scene to scene there’s nothing one can do by love the likes of Marley, Carlin, Rowlands and Cassel, but overall the structure leaves a lot to be desired.
Early on in the film we see with Richard and Jeannie, with another man, after a night of drinking and as we’re taken on what should be a fun drunken moment of this trio of characters trying to constantly out do themselves it feels more awkward than anything else. Even though we’re swiftly taken to Maria and Richard’s marital problems we spend so much time with Richard and his drunken evening with Jeannie that when the film eventually returns to Marie to see her entertaining Chet it feels out of place.