Too Late Blues (John Cassavetes / U.S., 1961):

John Cassavetes and the fear and desire of the mainstream studio, the 16mm bebop of Shadows gels into Paramount composing. (Lewis is concurrent on the lot with The Errand Boy.) The quandaries of an indie auteur, "playing jazz for deaf-mutes" before elbowing through a roomful of screwballs and phonies at a party, a very Los Angeles picture. The melancholy chanteuse (Stella Stevens) vocalizes in the corner but canít keep up with the pianistís tempo, the struggling bandleader (Bobby Darin) sees her and follows a slew of cocktails with a proclamation of love. "I just donít believe in fairy tales." "I promise you will." She pines for self-worth and he has issues with trust, a bond grows tentatively while the resentful agent (Everett Chambers) uses every chance to squash it. Stubbornness in love and stubbornness in art, the recording booth as the perilous terrain that separates breaking through and selling out. The ultimate Cassavetes horror on display, blink and youíre a nightclub gigolo. "Great, when did you turn into a critic?" Darinís compact recalcitrance, Stevensí wounded fuzziness, Chambersí superb bitterness, all integral elements of a stinging vision of integrity and compromise. The intensive labors of any craft and the various thorns of any relationship, the muse with runny mascara, the drinking game thatís always just a beat away from a brawl. Swing High, Swing Low and Young Man with a Horn, but also In a Lonely Place and Look Back in Anger. (The suicide attempt in the bathroom sink, with its drain-level close-up like a potholed iris shot, is a rough draft for the resuscitation in Faces.) The torn couple and the disbanded quintet are reunited painfully and musically, and Darinís line about talent suddenly reverberates: "You can waste it on something ordinary, or you can dream a little." With Nick Dennis, Vince Edwards, Val Avery, Marilyn Clark, and Seymour Cassel. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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