Love Steams Blu-ray Review
Love Streams is a typical Cassavetes. That
is to say the film is simultaneously intelligent, well-made, and unique
while also being in parts
infuriatingly structured, unconventional, and open to debate as to its
by critics and audiences alike. While I have enjoyed most of the
films that I've seen, it's no surprise that the filmmaker has so
audiences over the years even despite the awards, recognition, and
that the filmmaker has brought to filmmaking from so many others over
course of his career and beyond. Uniqueness
and attempts to unfurl stories in
such a different way can often be met by a wide range of responses.
Love Streams is in many ways the director's
film (though Cassavetes is credited with one more effort, it was a film
picked up on following the exit of another director and it offered him
opportunity to work with some favorite actors again). The
film is essentially the swan song of John
Cassavetes career in telling stories. For fans of the filmmaker, it's
as an important part of his filmography to see the film, even if it's
respects his least accessible.
The idea for this film is one that is ambitious
worthwhile. Cassavetes wants to explore the way love works and the way
interact and respond to it. How do people seek love, find love, and
love? These are the sorts of questions asked in the film - on a level
found with deeper analysis. However, Love Streams is arguably
conventional of all works from its filmmaker.
The film's narrative feels less legitimate than
and has trouble exploring the story in a traditional sense. It's jump
jarring and troubling for anyone looking for a more sensible flow of
storytelling. The pacing is strange and uncommon even in the world of
Cassavetes films. It takes around 2/3rds of the story before there even
any sense of understanding to the fact that the two main characters,
by Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes, are brother and sister.
and go in supporting parts that feel unimportant, while a number of
characters are more like symbolic creations of an idea than actual
within the story.
Of course, one doesn't see a film by an auteur
just to see a ordinary production. Yet Love Streams seems to
want to fight with narrative storytelling conventions, so much so that
most of the time watching the film feeling like this film has more in
with later Godard films than a number of its director's other, more
streamlined, explorations of human beings and connections.
It's story jumps around, focusing on the Gena
character -- who getting a divorce, is
as crazy, and struggling to win custody of her daughter (who wants to
her dad) and the on-going oddities of her brother. Rowlands has an
an actress that makes the character more fascinating, but the story
little narrative sense and the character feels like an afterthought.
on the other hand, plays his part in such a manner that the line
performance and the actuality of the director on-screen can feel a bit
Love Streams makes Shadows and A
Under the Influence look like typical Hollywood productions by
Anyone who has seen his earlier films without seeing Love Streams
that to be a bizarre statement, but that's telling of how abstract this
feels. The film that Love Streams has most in common with in
career is Opening Night, another late period effort from the
explored the breakdown and disillusionment of an actress determined to
wonderfully in a play she feared would be terrible.
In Love Streams, the character performed
Rowlands is seeking love and acceptance - by her divorcing husband, by
by her brother, and by anyone she can meet and be with romantically.
Yet the way
in which these elements are explored is so abstract that one can't help
feel like the film simply tells a feverish dream of a plot. So much of
due to a strange script and even stranger editing, where Rowlands
cab between her family (where she horrifically attempts to make laugh
in one of
the film's least pleasant scenes), and brother (who is so ridiculously
and other characters that seem to come and go within passages of the
it's fleeting moments. Scenes sometimes go on longer than they should
are cut strangely with an odd flow that seems to just jump the viewer
into a different setting.
On reflecting about the various mechanisms of the
Love Streams begins to make a certain sort of sense, but
that is really successful. The film explores ideas in ways that Godard
thrilled by. I imagine this Cassavetes effort would have been one of
favorite films of the year it came out. It's storyline jumps around
even though when it's focused on a sequence it trails along with a
pace, the free-flowing dialogue makes this feel like the least
most improvisational of all of its filmmakers work, the surrealism is
even within what is a seemingly realistic frame (a scene towards the
dancing ballerina's, a bellow of smoke, and a choral singing that feels
and bizarre), and the film asks questions about love that can be
deeper analysis but that at first glance has little to do with the
which so often just feels like an assortment of characters traveling
their decidedly odd journeys.
Cassavetes also throws in odd questions about what
nature of having a good time is (with a bizarre opening sequence with
character), and strange lines of dialogue that never add up to a
In my estimation, Love Streams is amongst the least successful
filmmakers directing efforts, but it's nonetheless something that can
discussion and analysis amongst film buffs and which fans
of the filmmaker (and I included myself
as one!) will want to see and explore for themselves.
In Criterion's included making-of piece,
explains about expecting audiences to either connect and hold on to
scenes or moments of Love Streams and not look at the whole, or
hate the movie or hate different parts of the film and be disconnected
Cassavetes knew he was making a film that wouldn't fit every audience
expectations or fulfill the quest for traditional narrative.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Love Streams is a typical Cassavetes: it's up
to the viewer to decide (on a typical film by film basis), if
such a journey is worth it. Sometimes Cassavetes manages to strike gold
with his films and improvisational style
and other times he fumbles his delivery on the way to the finish line,
there's always something which will resonate with some audience members
frustrating others. By effect, the end result of the journey taken is
interesting (even when it isn't).
Love Streams arrives
on Blu-ray with an impressively
realized 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer presented in the original
ratio of 1.85:1. The film's visual style is represented successfully
Criterion has done a splendid job with this 2K restoration, which has
preserved film grain and it's naturally filmic look while removing
dirt, debris, and being entirely free from print damage. It's hard to
anyone finding this presentation disappointing as it's a high class
The uncompressed PCM mono audio track isn't quite
impressive as the picture quality is, primarily because of its more
dynamic range and soundstage. However, Criterion handled the audio with
care and no instances of distortion via pops, clicks, hiss, and
potential audio distortions with a film of its age were found on this
The release also includes English SDH subtitles
deaf and hard of hearing).
If you loved this film (and even if you didn't)
where a lot of the wonderment in this release comes into play.
continues to provide some excellent supplemental materials here with
making-of documentary (which was previously difficult to find) "I'm
Almost Not Crazy... - John Cassavetes:
The Man and His Work", a production which covers the making of Love
Streams and which was produced by the studio helping to finance Love
This is certainly a candid and fascinating look at the making of the
film as it
features frank interviews in which offer insights by the filmmaker
goal of the film and the efforts made to create it. Running at around 1
long, this documentary is one of the most extensive behind the scenes
the making of a Cassavetes picture.
The release also includes a wonderful visual
that was written and narrated by film critic Sheila O'Malley, who
great passion and love for the films of Gena Rowlands made with her
husband, Cassavetes. The piece explores her roles and her acting craft
exquisite ways and was a highly worthwhile inclusion on this release.
Also included on this release are brand new
with cinematographer Al Ruban, actor Diahnne Abbott, a 2008 interview
actor Seymour Cassel, a new audio commentary from writer
(who also helmed the making-of documentary on this release), and the
The included booklet contains an essay
film critic Dennis Lim about the film and a New York Times piece
John Cassavetes himself about the film, and which offers
more insights into the process and
goals of Love Streams than the film itself may present.
Love Streams flows
along like a stream of consciousness
in which each sequence feels less sequential and narrative-based and
abstract and metaphorical than perhaps any other Cassavetes film. The
superb and the style of the cinematography and production is something
remains impressive but for some reason I had a hard time connecting to
effort, which in my estimation doesn't adequately explore the themes in
in aims to be offering a fascinating exploration of.
Fans of Cassavetes
who enjoyed his effort Opening Night
and all of its abstract ideas will likely enjoy this effort the most
those more accustomed to his earlier filmmaking style will be surprised
different this film feels in a number of ways, even if it still
hallmarks of being one of his creations.
Even if the film
does disappoint, Criterion's Blu-ray edition doesn't and offers a
realized presentation of the film alongside another successful
important supplements that provide additional insights into the film
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.