Sadly, three greatly inspired “independent” filmmakers have passed away.
Guest contributor A.C. Francis has paid tribute to their careers.
Goodbye and Farewell to character actor Seymour Cassel, a stalwart of independent cinema. He died at age 84.
Oscar nominated for his work in his friend John Cassavettes’ Faces (1968) and Hugo Award Winner for In the Soup (1992), the actor carved out a career with memorable roles for talented filmmakers throughout the decades.
Working mostly with Cassavettes through the bulk of the 70s, he made strong impressions in the filmmaker’s Shadows (his film debut), Minnie and Moskowitz, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night.
Cassel ended the decade with a wonderful little film from John Hancock, 1979’s California Dreaming. The actor played “Duke Slusarski” in perhaps his most soulful performance, as a man who comes so close to realising his dreams but...
With over 200 films to his credit, Cassel worked with some of the best filmmakers of their respective times such as John Cassavettes, Elia Kazan, Sam Peckinpah, Barry Levinson, Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Roeg, Larry Cohen, Warren Beatty and Wes Anderson.
He was always a dedicated actor, evident in every performance. Seymour Cassel (January 22, 1935 - April 8, 2019).
Rest In Peace
Goodbye and Farewell to Agnès Varda who’s left us at age 90.
Varda came to prominence in 1962 with the superb Cleo from 5 to 7, a story told in real-time about a young woman who finds she may have cancer and awaits her doctor’s call. The film moves with grace from one emotional precipice to the next.
She would create another near masterpiece in 1965 with Le Bonheur (Happiness), a cruelly ironic portrait of a loving young family and its patriarch's attempt to increase his joy by taking a mistress. The film’s title infers upon the patriarch’s misguided sense of what his heart yearns for and is quite powerful in its depiction of the “sullying” of an otherwise peaceful family.
The filmmaker explored themes of illness, life and death throughout her career. Her biggest commercial success (and one of her finest films) came in 1985 with Vagabond starring Sandrine Bonnaire, who plays the tragic role of young woman wandering the roads to her fate, a story with immediacy and palpable poignancy.
In all of her films, Varda carefully observes but does not moralise her characters, allowing her audience to freely engage or pass judgement on their actions. She never coerces sympathy, instead reminds us with her imitable style that it's possible to say one thing and mean another. Such is life.
Outside of the mainstream, Varda eschewed the studio system, staying fiercely independent, tested when she travelled to Los Angeles in 1967 with her husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy. She was never seduced by the mainstream, maintaining her autonomous spirit until the end.
Agnès Varda portrayed life from her refreshingly unique and always unexpected perspective. Agnès Varda (May 30, 1928 - March 29, 2019) R.I.P.
Goodbye and Farewell to Larry Cohen who passed away at age 82.
A genre icon is gone and it’s an especially sad loss for fans of Grindhouse Cinema. Larry Cohen was a maverick low-budget filmmaker whose specialising in the horror genre gave us some fascinating creative dynamos such as It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To (1976), It Lives Again (1978), The Stuff (1985), A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) and perhaps the most precious of all, the wildly imaginative Q The Winged Serpent (1982). His horror films typically infused cutting social commentary and infectious humour into the gruesomeness, leaving an enthusiastic and passionate stylistic impression. In the ‘70s he became known for contributing to the “Blaxploitation” brand of films with Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem (both 1973). Cohen also wrote and directed the notable biography/drama The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977). Larry Cohen (July 15, 1936 - March 23, 2019). R.I.P.