Mineshaft Gap

It's a screening log, no more no less. Maybe I'll have something interesting to say one of these days...

No Cassavetes, but Still Good.

Marty Scorsese is an avowed John Cassavetes fan. Cassavetes liked his first film, and gave him tips along the young filmmaker's way. So it's not surprising that in 1974, Scorsese jumped at the chance to direct the very Cassavetian Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Playing like a Hollywood version of a Cassavetes film, Alice stars Ellen Burstyn as the titular mother who, after the death of her abusive husband, strikes out with her son to regain the life she knew before. Her string of men, including Harvey Keitel, and lousy jobs lead her eventually to Tucson, waitressing and Kris Kristofferson. The trajectory is straight down the line of early women's lib, and Alice eventually finds a way to be her own person.

While well made and very funny, the flaw in the film is the gloss, the sheen that let's you know from the first frame that everything is going to be all right. This is where there is a difference between Scorsese and Cassavetes, that gloss of the well made film was something Marty still struggles with. When he is on his game it is almost non-existent (Raging Bull, Goodfellas) when he is off that is all you can see (Gangs of New York). Here Scorsese is making a push to break into the mainstream, and he acquits himself well. It is amazing to think of a time when a film this formally adventurous could be considered this Hollywood, yet the narrative still functions on that happy ending tripe.

The film is very good, and leaves you quite satisfied even with a slightly off ending. Again, my own issue is that I watched this much too close to the devastating Woman Under the Influence, to which Alice can never compare. But on its own, this is quite a great film and a gem in the Scorsese oeuvre.

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