Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
Directed by: John Cassavetes
Written by: John Cassavetes
Starring: Seymour Cassel, Gena Rowlands
After seeing John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence and Opening Night earlier this year, I instantly became a fan. His films are visceral, real, and raw – in the best sense of the word. His collaborations with wife Gena Rowlands work incredibly well, and the pair have gone down in history as one of the all-time great director-actor teams.
1971’s Minnie and Moskowitz is no different from the two other Cassavetes films mentioned previously, and succeeds in exactly the same way those pictures do. The film stars Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel (another long-time collaborator) as Minnie Moore and Seymour Moskowitz respectively. The pair – who couldn’t possibly be more different – fall into an aggressive, chaotic romantic affair of sorts, much to the chagrin of all those around them. Make no mistake though, as passionate and intense as the relationship can be throughout the latter parts of the film, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a loving one. Even though you as a viewer sometimes want to see these two characters miles away from each other, by the end of the film you’ll no doubt be cautiously rooting for their success, to prove to the naysayers that they can and will be together forever, despite their many differences.
Seymour Moskowitz (Cassel) is one of the most compelling on-screen characters I’ve seen in a film since Gena Rowlands’ turn in A Woman Under the Influence. Moskowitz comes off as insane, loving, romantic, passionate, thoughtful, and aggressive throughout the film, keeping the viewer (and Rowlands’ Minnie) guessing. His relationship with his mother, his apparent yearning for acceptance and intimacy with strangers, and his immediate (and unpredictable) reactions to different situations help make Moskowitz an incredibly well-rounded character, and Cassel plays him perfectly. Cassel’s performance is complimented by Rowlands’ turn as Minnie Moore, whose performance isn’t nearly as demanding or as flashy as some of her later roles, but still comes off as impressive. Minnie is a relatively meek, sweet woman who somehow falls for a man like Moskowitz (and his glorious mustache).
Aside from his incredible performance direction, Cassavetes’ film is every bit as intimate and close as the rest of his great works, and yet still has the grainy, independent – almost guerrilla feel – that I adore about his films. The dinner scene with Minnie and Seymour’s mothers is an absolute knock out, simultaneously throwing the viewer into doubt about the relationship, and also helping them empathize with these star-crossed lovers. The writing in the film is on point, not a single minute feels wasted. Although the film does take a little while for the characters to finally meet, our time getting to know Minnie Moore and Seymour Moskowitz is nevertheless captivating.
Minnie and Moskowitz is a film I thought I would like, and ended up loving. John Cassavetes definitely earned his reputation as a Hollywood great, and I can’t wait to delve into the rest of his catalog. There are very few directors who are better at pulling incredible performances our of their actors in nearly all their films. Minnie and Moskowitz is a high recommendation.