Review: Opening Night (1977)

Opening Night (1977)

Directed by: John Cassavetes | 144 minutes | drama | Actors: Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, Paul Stewart, Zohra Lampert, Laura Johnson, John Tuell, Ray Powers, John Finnegan, Louise Finch, Fred Draper, Katherine Cassavetes, Lady Rowlands, Carol Warren, Briana Carver, Angelo Grisanti, Meade Roberts, Eleanor Zee, David Rowlands, Sharon Van Ivan, Jimmy Christie, James Karen, Jimmy Joyce, Sherry Bain, Sylvia Davis Shaw, Peter Lampert, Barbara Perry, Josh Becker, Peter Bogdanovich, Seymour Cassel, Peter Falk, Rabbi William Kramer, Robert Leader, Robert von Dassanowsky

In Hollywood you often hear actresses complain that there are hardly any roles for older women. And that is of course true: more film scripts are written for young, toned bodies than for wrinkly bodies. That is the case in the film industry, but also in everyday life it is more difficult for older people from a certain age to get a job. Gena Rowlands was fortunate to have her husband, John Cassavetes, cast her regularly – in his films (they made ten films together between 1963-1982), but even after his death in 1989, the talented actress was regularly offered roles. So Rowlands has never had to worry about her career. One of her most memorable roles in her husband’s film is that of Myrtle Gordon, an actress who is particularly concerned about her age and aging.

The immediate reason for this is the piece in which she is currently playing. In “The Second Woman”, of which we as viewers get to see many scenes, she plays Virginia, a woman who visits her first husband out of dissatisfaction with her life. This is not appreciated by her current partner Marty. What Myrtle has a lot of trouble with is the interpretation given to it by the much older Sarah, who wrote the play, namely that old age irrevocably means the end, there is no more hope. Myrtle is unable to empathize with this character. Things take a turn for the worse when, after one of the previews (shows held before the big Broadway premiere), a young fan not only begs for Myrtle’s autograph, but literally throws himself into her arms, giving her the love declares. Myrtle is genuinely moved by this emotional outburst and wants to talk to the girl longer, but her entourage fishes her into the limousine. Shortly afterwards, the girl is hit by a car for running after Myrtle’s car in the middle of the street. Myrtle is shocked, but her colleagues brush off her concerns. Before long, Myrtle has visions of the dead child that become increasingly violent. The actress is struggling to control her alcohol addiction. She sinks deeper and deeper into depression. Her colleagues, including ex-husband Maurice (John Cassavetes), director Manny (Ben Gazzara) and writer Sarah (Joan Blondell) and producer David (Paul Stewart), view Myrtle’s identity crisis with dismay as she disrupts the entire organization. of the play.

Cassavetes plays here masterfully with the thin line between real and acted emotions. It is not always clear to Myrtle whether she is on stage as herself or as an actress in the play. But also for the audience who watches ‘Opening Night’, the illusion is often created that we are actually watching “The Second Woman”. Cassavetes shot a personal film with ‘Opening Night’: after all, there are many parallels to his own clashes with Hollywood.

Gena Rowlands is fantastic as the self-destructive Myrtle: nobody looks more attractive than her with a cigarette casually on her lip, and even when she’s so drunk she can barely stand on her feet and you wonder when she’s going to throw up, she succeeds. to maintain the viewer’s sympathy. The actress was rightly awarded a Silver Bear in Berlin for this role. Ben Gazzara is also on his toes as the self-centered director, who doesn’t do much to prevent Myrtle’s downward spiral, as it might still turn out well for his play. The rest of the cast is also in good shape, though they are dwarfed by Gena Rowland’s phenomenal acting performance. ‘Opening Night’ may be a long sitting at 2 hours and 18 minutes, it is without doubt an intense and impressive viewing experience that you will not soon forget.

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