John Cassavetes’s 1984 masterpiece Love Streams, his final independent film (and not available on DVD outside France), opened last Friday for a rare theatrical engagement at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill. On the first night of the week-long run, Richard Jensen of Clear Cut Press introduced the movie; guitarist Calvin Johnson strummed a couple of offbeat songs, relating a charming anecdote along the way about making prank phone calls to Leonard Maltin’s house (to protest Taxi Driver‘s receipt of a mere two-star rating); and in a curious decision, there was NWFF Executive Director Michael Seiwerath branding Love Streams as a movie “that can only be thought of as a failure.” More on this last detail in a moment.
Toward a definition of why he considers it his favorite film, Jensen spoke of the “uncharacteristic rhythms” of Love Streams, of “the way the music moves the movie.” Jensen acknowledged the songs of composer Bo Harwood, all unpublished apparently, as seminal contributions, but most of Jensen’s pre-screening talk consisted of holding his cell phone up to a mic, and playing back a saved voice mail message from the Cassavetes connoisseur Ray Carney, who had called Jensen earlier in the day to say that, on such short notice, he couldn’t locate contact information for Harwood. And so those of us gathered listened to Carney’s disembodied voice sing the praises of this “completely untutored” songwriter who can’t read music, but whose haunting, odd melodies perfectly accompanied the late auteur’s visions. It was impossible to hear most of what Carney had to say, but given how many months had elapsed between programming Love Streams (it was announced as far back as February) and the opening, Jensen’s introduction was a bit too fly-by-night. Wouldn’t it have been a richer experience to have a statement from Harwood on the process of making music with and for Cassavetes?
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