Love Streams ★★★★

Faces saw the antagonistic couple lost in their own nightmare but soldiering on after a cigarette break calms the nerves of their crazy night. Love Streams returns to the scene of the crime (yes I know it’s Cassavetes’s own house) to see what horrors await those who haunt its halls now in the Reagan era, and really it’s just a couple of ghosts. These are some self-loathing individuals in search of masochism to justify their existence in a world that literally forgot they are still even around (Rowlands explains her profession is basically helping people reach the end of their life). But that makes them aloof to the possibilities of connections they could otherwise have – Cassavetes zooms on the face of Rowland’s daughter during the court room scenes, she’s completely oblivious to the feelings her child has, while Cassavetes attracts himself to whatever great story he can get (why does he even go up to the home of his ex-wife? He knows a beating is coming and he wants it). The house is filled with photos of various women and no family members, and the halls are darkened, leaving characters in shadows.

The camera sticks to more controlled and often revealing framing –Cassavetess zooms in as he shows his child affection for once, a gesture both of love and terror. The palette is much more expressive, the distanced looks always reveal the intimacy that this brother and sister (a plot detail barely explained, though what it ultimately accomplishes by withholding such information I find somewhat arbitrary) feel connected in a world where no one else gets them. My prejudices here, but I just don’t think Cassavetes got the drama-comedy balance in a way that Elaine May did in Mikey & Nicky - the funny moments are funny (especially the parade of animals), but I don’t think he has the same control (or really lack of control) over using humor as horror. The surreal bits with Rowlands are also somewhat on the nose (she wants to murder her husband, she’ll do anything to please), but the final opera is a strange work that felt like the stuff Coppola would later do in Tetro. It’s a haunting little sequence for a film haunted by those who, despite being tied by blood, only display expressions of love that will always be too outside normality for even each other.

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