PAUSE IT: What do you see? A dazed woman, Jess (Stella Stevens), stares at the shattered image of her own reflection in director John Cassavetes’ Too Late Blues (1961). Her makeup running, her hair frazzled, the image is startling as Stevens gazes beyond herself into the black abyss. Not often recognized for his abilities as a visual stylist, here, in his first studio picture Cassavetes showcases his acumen ​for arresting imagery as he plumbs the depths of deepest psychological angst. Always an iconoclast, Cassavetes would become famous for his direction of actors and his free-formed narratives. These films privileged character, behavior, and improvisatory techniques over what Cassavetes perceived to be Hollywood’s clichéd, overly sentimental, and often contrived plots. As his career progressed, Cassavetes would seek to imbue his stories not with realism in its strictest sense, but rather with experiential depictions of emotions—what does the experience of joy, anger, shame, self-loathing, and above all else, love actually feel like and how is it best put into a cinematic language? As such, Cassavetes’ films can be challenging, frustrating, and at times confounding to grapple with as they threaten to careen off the highest of cliffs at any moment. But for those willing to engage with a different kind of cinema their power is undeniable and can oftentimes be cathartic, if not revelatory.  

Director: John Cassavetes
Cast: Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Everett Chambers
Cinematography by:  Lionel Lindon
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