“Lost” Cassavetes’ Masterwork Found at Library of Congress by Eagle-Eyed Boston University Film-Studies Professor
Contact: Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626 | firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON, MA — Boston University Professor Ray Carney had a gut feeling something was amiss when the online catalogue of archived films in the Library of Congress listed one copy of John Cassavetes’ breakthrough 1968 independent production “Faces” as 18 minutes longer than the others. Told by library staffers that it was likely a clerical error, a skeptical Carney went to Washington and looked for himself. To his astonishment, he said, that’s when he discovered a historic “lost” version that Carney believes may have been intended to be the release version.
“When I put the print on the Steenbeck (the movie viewer), I realized within seconds that I was not looking at a cataloguer’s error,” said Carney, the world-renowned authority on Cassavetes’ life and work who has written five books on him and knows this film shot-by-shot by heart. “The evidence from the credits alone was so conclusive, and I was so excited, that I stopped the film before the first scene had appeared on screen and told (library staffers) what they had sitting in storage unknown to them for so many years, waiting to be discovered.”
When “Faces” was released, it was heralded as a turning point in the independent movement as the first non-commercial movie to be embraced by a mass American audience. It was celebrated as one of the major works of American film art and garnered three Academy Award nominations. Carney said “Faces” went through at least five completely different assemblies, and conventional wisdom has been that Cassavetes destroyed all the alternative versions when he settled on the final release print.
“The location of an alternate version is of clear historical importance,” said Carney. “It seems likely that it represents one of Cassavetes’ final versions; in fact, it may have been intended to be the release version. It’s no exaggeration to compare this discovery to finding a version of ‘Citizen Kane’ with a new beginning and a different shot selection.”
The Library of Congress said it is still investigating how the print came into their possession, as its records are incomplete. The library’s Motion Picture Division is restoring the newly discovered version of “Faces” and plans are being made to eventually show it publicly.
Born in New York City, Cassavetes had a career spanning nearly 40 years as an actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. He died in 1989 at the age of 59.
Carney, a professor of film and American studies at Boston University and Director of Film Studies in the School of Communication’s Department of Film and Television, maintains a Web site devoted to the filmmaker (www.cassavetes.com).
Carney’s most recent book, the monumental 550-page “Cassavetes on Cassavetes” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2001),based on conversations with the filmmaker in the final decades of his life, was praised by film critic Roger Ebert as “a labor of love, scholarship, and detective work. From a chaotic mountain of primary and secondary sources, Ray Carney has shaped the story of John Cassavetes’ life and work-using the words of the great director himself, and also calling on his colleagues and friends to supply their memories and revelations. ‘This is the autobiography he never lived to write,’ Carney says, but it is more: Not only the life story, but history, criticism, homage, lore. Like a Cassavetes film, it bursts with life and humor, and then reveals fundamental truths..”
The Film Studies program at Boston University provides a comprehensive examination of film while ensuring that students receive a strong liberal arts education. It focuses on three critical areas: film studies, screenwriting, and film production. Boston University, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 in its 17 schools and colleges, is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.