J.D. Lafrance
Love Streams: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Love Streams: Criterion Collection

August 26, 2014

Director: John Cassavetes,
Starring: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Diahnne Abbott, Seymour Cassel, Margaret Abbott, Jakob Shaw, Michele Conway,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Based on a play by Ted Allan, Love Streams (1984) continued John Cassavetes’ fascination with the often-messy relationships between people. Sarah Lawson (Rowlands) and her husband Jack (Cassel) are in the process of getting a divorce and figuring out custody of their daughter Debbie. “Love is a stream. It’s continuous. It doesn’t stop,” Sarah tells her psychiatrist early on in the film. It could very well be its central thesis, be it romantic love or, in the case of Love Streams, familial love.

Robert Harmon (Cassavetes) is a novelist writing a book about nightlife and uses this as an excuse to chat up Susan (Diahnne Abbott), a lounge singer, which ends up with him reduced to a drunken mess. If it seems like he’s running away from love, then Sarah tries desperately to embrace it and in doing so holds on too tight, which results in her losing custody of Debbie.

Gena Rowlands delivers yet another powerful performance of a woman trying so hard to keep things together. Sarah fantasizes about running over Jack with a car and kills Debbie as well. Rowlands is not afraid of putting it all out there, like when Sarah attends a custody hearing for her daughter and manages to talk her way out of what seemed like a sure thing. She then proceeds to walk out of the meeting room to go lie down in a nearby courtroom, suffering from what looks like a panic attack.

Cassavetes’ Robert is equally messed up as he goes from one lover to another, refusing to connect with anyone in any meaningful way until an ex-wife dumps a son (Shaw) he never knew he had on his front door. If that doesn’t shake him out of his rut then the arrival of his estranged sister Sarah is when things get really interesting as the emotional fireworks begin to fly.

As with most Cassavetes films, Love Streams is an unconventional slice-of-life drama whose seemingly random, non-linear narrative mirrors the messy lives of its characters. There are no easy answers in this film, much like life itself, but Cassavetes isn’t afraid to ask tough questions and spend time wrestling with them.

Special Features:

The Blu-Ray transfer features a stunning digital restoration with strong colors and natural-looking skin tones as well as incredible detail. This is a huge improvement over previous DVD incarnations.

There is an audio commentary by Michael Ventura, author of Cassavetes Directs, a book about the making of Love Streams. He talks about the film’s origins as a play and points out that Cassavetes was quite ill while making it, but let few know, powering through the production instead. Ventura sings the praises of Rowlands’ performance. Having been on the set during filming, Ventura provides all kinds of insights and filming anecdotes.

There is an interview with the film’s cinematographer and executive producer Al Ruban. He talks about getting involved with Love Streams and what it was like dealing with Golan and Globus who funded it. Ruban recounts Cassavetes’ uncompromising working methods and how it got the best out of his actors.

Also included is an interview with actress Diahnne Abbott. She recounts her first meeting with Cassavetes and how she grew to love him and Rowlands. She also talks about how intense the rehearsals were and tells some filming anecdotes.

There is an interview with actor Seymour Cassel who talks about his first meeting with Cassavetes and how it led to helping out on the production of Shadows (1959). He talks about Cassavetes’ style of filmmaking and speaks affectionately about the man.

“Watching Gena Rowlands” is a visual essay by film critic Sheila O’Malley. She analyzes Rowlands’ style of acting and the intensity she brought to every role. O’Malley also sheds light on the exciting unpredictability Rowlands gave a given scene. Naturally, she talks about how Cassavetes and Rowlands worked together.

“I’m Almost Not Crazy…” is a 56-minute documentary made during filming of Love Streams that features fly-on-the-wall footage of Cassavetes and co. at work in unguarded moments that show his sometimes mercurial attitude. This extra provides fascinating insight into his working methods.

Finally, a trailer is included.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 94%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/28032-love-streams


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