“Harmon is a writer in a tux whom we never see writing, and Sarah is a divorcée who wants to give love, buy love, solve love. Both are marching out of step with everyone else, but toward each other. It’s that brother–sister thing. A portrait of that we’re all we’ve got sibling truth. Or, as Cassavetes said to Golan, the essence of waking up and wanting to call someone.”
BALDWIN: When we talked earlier about poverty and rage…I am one of the dispossessed. There is that difference. According to the West I have no history. There is that difference. I have had to wrest my identity out of the jaws of the West. It’s a very different endeavor. We, the blacks, have been told nothing but lies. So have you been told nothing but lies.
MEAD: That’s right. We have both been told lies.
BALDWIN: But there is a difference in that you —
MEAD: Whether one was lied about or not.
BALDWIN: — you are identified with the angels, and I’m identified with the devil. We are living in a kind of theology. Therefore my situation — our situation, really — presents itself to me as exceedingly urgent. I cannot lie to myself about some things. I cannot. I don’t mean anybody else is. I mean that I have to know something about myself and my countrymen, and the most terrible thing about that, the most terrible about it, is not the looting, the fire burnings or the bombings: that is bad enough. But what is really terrible is to face the fact that you cannot trust your countrymen. That you cannot trust them. For the assumptions on which they live are antithetical to any hope you may have to live. It is a terrible omen when you see an American flag on somebody else’s car and realize that’s your enemy. In principle it is your flag too, but the man who is flying the American flag is going to kill you. You, his brother. You, his countryman. That is what that flag means.
MEAD: I am not denying any of these facts. What I am trying to consider is whether there is an inevitable difference in the spiritual stance, for you who are black and me who am white.
BALDWIN: We can’t talk about the spiritual stance unless we are talking about the power!
"Lacey has written a postmodern existential novel, featuring what Leslie Jamison, in her recent essay collection, “The Empathy Exams,” terms a “post-wounded woman”—one with a brain on overdrive and emotions that are slow to form, if not quite stalled. These are women, Jamison explains, who “are wary of melodrama so they stay numb or clever instead. Post-wounded women make jokes about being wounded or get impatient with women who hurt too much.” In this sense, the novel is very contemporary, I suppose, but it is also classical in its delineation of the youthful impulse to define oneself…"
Both husband and wife were bound by a beautiful agitation and an outlier quality that compelled their work but on the surface could be perceived as cagey or “mysterious… even, perhaps especially,” Ventura notes, “to each other.” It’s no secret they had a “volatile” relationship. That’s how Rowlands described their marriage to People magazine in 1984, adding: “If you think a marriage isn’t going to be like that, you’ve got trouble.”
The couple’s simpatico, when they had it, was founded on one main principle: neither Cassavetes nor Rowlands believed that someone should be written off because he or she is seen as “crazy.” As she puts it in both Ventura’s book and the documentary, “I don’t think anyone is crazy who isn’t cruel. To me, cruelty is crazy.” That conviction was what kept John and Gena both together and in Hollywood’s margins. “John has a great affinity for characters that are perceived by the world as cuckoo, or whacko, or at least eccentric,” she says. “But we don’t see it that way… It’s just that [some people] have a different dream——a different thing that they wanted out of life. And they’re confused as to why it doesn’t happen, and how they found themselves in this position where they’re marching out of step to everyone else.”
"In Sarah’s marriage we see only the divorce, beginning at the end with lawyers, papers, and her husband and daughter’s retreat. Her retreat in kind brings to mind Barbara Loden’s Wanda, if for no other reason than that both films are about women whose wants are on nobody’s radar, especially not their own. In each her way, Sarah and Wanda are accumulations of withdrawal, calm-seekers beset by a ceaseless whirring. We hear it in the sedate musicality of Sarah’s speech, or how she’ll wind up her words like a pitcher on the mound, saying “uhhhhh-lot!” instead of “a lot.” We see it in how perpetually Sarah finds herself on the floor (she falls, collapses, lays down languidly) or how crucially she clutches the receiver on a rotary phone. Has anyone ever held a phone the way Gena Rowlands holds a phone? Her hands: an elegant vise. Rowlands inhabits spaces so intensely that she alters their original context, transforming the kitchen, for instance, into a home’s doomed core.
As Sarah, she has more thinking faces than she has speaking faces: an arsenal of grimaces, a glassy vacant stare, a wariness that resides on her temple right where she places the palm of her hand when she’s considering her next move. Sometimes, she’ll furrow her brow and pucker her lips like an amateur gumshoe solving a mystery. When Sarah narrows her eyes, she means it.”
“Over the years, the smear appeared on film whenever an actress, usually playing another actress, needed to look, well, actressy. In “Opening Night,” Gena Rowlands disintegrates under a fine black veil and applies her signature rose lip in slippery circles. In a similar, eerie still in “The Marriage of Maria Braun,” Hanna Schygulla’s lipstick is a blotto red mess that recalls Tallulah Bankhead in the ultra-shlocky “Die! Die! My Darling!” Halfway through the 1990s, Courtney Love’s permanent slip dress and sloppy moue — a cross between Crawford’s and a clown’s — was, and is again, widely imitated; I’m thinking of New York’s beauty/junkie queen, Cat Marnell, who applies her YSL Rouge #17 to look as if she has recently escaped a kidnapping. At Vivienne Westwood’s fall show, the models wore what the makeup artist Val Garland called “a Marilyn Monroe mucky lip, like she’s had a few drinks.” Call it “the new smear,” call it “the smudge.” The wearer is clear: She’s a woman undone, but on purpose.”
NYTIMES: Michele Roberts, N.B.A. Union’s New Leader, Confronts Gender Barriers
"She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.””
"After attending public schools in the Bronx, Roberts earned a scholarship before her sophomore year of high school to attend the Masters School, a boarding school for girls in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Roberts was one of two black students in her grade, and for the first time, she felt like an outsider.
“It was actually some of the best training for my professional life,” Roberts said. “Once I realized that being different does not mean being inferior — I scoff at that nonsense if I see it.”
One of her first nights in school, Roberts and a small group of classmates were brushing their teeth before bed. One of the girls asked Roberts if she could touch her hair, and Roberts, though somewhat puzzled, agreed. Within moments, there were four girls around her, running their fingers through her Afro.
“I remember I asked Michele if she ever had to comb her hair or if it just stayed that way,” said Anne Gibson Wnorowski, a classmate. “She made it very clear to me that was a stupid question, and I think after that I didn’t talk to her for months.”
"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive." JAMES BALDWIN
“This hesitation to marry, even with children in the picture, is the kind of arrangement only admired as principled in the sort of people who have PhDs, sophisticated or at least convincing rhetoric, and loud voices with an argumentative timbre. People without those powers are never, in any realm, afforded the same non-judgment or respect.”
The best emails I’ve ever received are from Lucy. Read the whole piece HERE
A nice moment between John Cassavetes and Menahem Golan on the set of Love Streams:
"Tonight, for the first time since shooting began, Menahem Golan visits the set. They sit in John’s bar, painfully attempting conversation. What they have in common is that both are fighters, risk-takers and film directors. (Golan has just wrapped an engaging little comedy called Over the Brooklyn Bridge, starring Elliott Gould.) They’re roughly the same age – John 53, Golan 50. Both dress in baggy clothes, neither shaves every day, both know what it means to win big and lose hard, and both know the immigrant experience in America. Golan is experiencing it now. John is the son of immigrants; though born in America, John’s early years were spent with family in Greece; when he returned here at the age of seven he spoke no English. There, all resemblance stops. Golan is a big Israeli bear, Cassavetes is a small New York cat. Golan is an entertainer (he’d be the first to say so); Cassavetes is an artist (he’d be the last to say so). Golan, the most successful director in Israel, has no prestige in Europe and America; John has an outlaw’s prestige in America and is revered in Europe. (He’ll tell me, “I’m a street-person so I don’t care about being esteemed in Europe or here.”) Golan is smart and savvy; John is (he’ll make me pay for saying this) a genius. Their personal styles and preferences couldn’t be more at odds. As men, they have nothing to say each other.
John’s game. He’s trying. “The last living relative, that’s what this film is about. You know, my mother died this year. [This is the first time he’s mentioned that in my hearing.] My father is dead, my brother – my elder brother. Every morning I wake up, I want to call somebody –”
“Call me,” says Golan.
“—to find out how they are.”
“Elliott Gould calls me twice a night, you can call me.”
John’s really trying. He’s saying things he doesn’t often speak of, things of great importance to him.
“So, in this picture,” John goes on, “this man constantly thinks of his sister, and never sees her. Finally, she comes to his house. But the audience doesn’t know it’s his sister! We’re on page 80 and we haven’t said it’s his sister.”
“I still can’t believe you shoot in sequence,” Menahem says.
John shrugs. “It’s all I know.””
This anecdote via Michael Ventura’s CASSAVETES DIRECTS
Alicia Van Couvering Is Changing the Ratio in Film
"What should guide you through your career is not necessarily ambition or desire to be a mogul: it should be your curiosity."
"Anecdotally, the times I’ve felt it was hard to be a woman in the movie business is when I was growing up. In film school it looked easier for men to pretend they knew something when they didn’t. At 18 we would be asked, ‘Who can run the camera?’ And the guys would say, ‘I’m all over it,’ even if they didn’t know. I wasn’t comfortable with that. I didn’t want to touch something if I didn’t know what I was doing. And I didn’t want to lead the conference call if I didn’t know what to say. That’s my cultural observation. Men are more comfortable saying, ‘I’m going to leap into the leadership position even if I don’t know what I’m doing.’
I had to teach myself to take a deep breath and pretend I knew what the fuck I was doing. I realized everyone’s just pretending they know, and if I pretend, I’ll eventually get the info I need to actually know. But if I don’t pretend to know, I’ll be relegated back to the helper position. It’s a vulnerable position to publicly fail. And it’s risky when your self-image is barely formed.”
"But women will slave away and wait around for that power and credit to be bestowed upon them. Self-deprecation is so comfortable, especially when you’re young: It’s like a warm, fuzzy blanket that makes it impossible to fail, because you already told everybody that you couldn’t do it.”
“Nina Simone was listening to the radio at home when she heard about the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black girls. It was 1963. The year Dr. King wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail. The year Kennedy announced the Civil Rights Bill. The year Medgar Evers was gunned down in his own driveway. But four little girls? As Simone later recalled, “All the truths that I had denied to myself for so long rose up and slapped my face… It came as a rush of fury, hatred and determination. In church language, the Truth entered me and I came through.” She went into the garage. When her husband, Andy, came home a few hours later, he found her sitting on the floor with a mess of tools spread out in front of her. Nina Simone was trying to build a hand-made gun. “I had it in my mind to go out and kill someone,” she explains in I Put a Spell on You. “I didn’t know who, but someone I could identify as being in the way of my people getting justice for the first time in three hundred years.” Andy, standing behind her as she continued to work, finally said “Nina, you don’t know anything about killing. The only thing you’ve got is music.” Eventually, she put down the tools, went to her piano, and wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in a hour. Music was her gun.”
“THE REASON THERE ARE SO FEW stories about shopgirls is because we often frame what shopgirls sell—women’s efforts at self-creation—as indulgent and narcissistic, not as work, and so many people presume that there is not a lot of narrative drama in that experience. But what Zambreno knows, and writes so well, are the key elements that define the tense dynamics of every shopgirl’s experience: sedation, seduction, and surveillance.
Retail often feels like a physical, rather than a mental, employment. The employer needs shopgirls to talk and smile and interact with other people, which of course requires thought, but they are mostly paid to be present. Shopgirls are there in case people want to buy something; their day is entirely dependent on what happens in the hours they are on the sales floor.
The sedation sets in after a shift of little to no human interactions, in the hours between busy shopping periods, when their bodies are all that their employers require of them. Those are the hours when the small talk with coworkers, the careful avoidance of thinking about the pain in their legs, the two-fingered spacing between the wooden hangers, slow the body down and paralyze it. “To last throughout her shift she escapes outside of her body and lets it do all the work,” Ruth thinks. “Sometimes she is struck by the sense that she is someone else’s character, that she is saying someone else’s lines … by the end of her day her throat is dry from her constant spiel.””