John H Cazale ♦ 12th August 1935 – 13th March 1978

A sincere tribute ought to celebrate an artist’s life or career for the right reasons. It should come from the critic’s heart and not only salute a performer’s work when the opportunity arises in some key date, like an actor’s birthday or the anniversary of one of his films.

THE GODFATHER, James Caan, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, John Cazale, 1972It is perfectly plausible that many (perhaps, most) people wouldn’t have a clue about who John Cazale was – or is, since his movies are still with us, and will be for any forseeable future. Why celebrate Cazale’s career at all? And why now? After all, there are not significant anniversaries related to his life or the five films he made.

The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola

The Conversation (1974), Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather – Part II (1974), Francis Ford Coppola

Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Sidney Lumet

The Deer Hunter (1978), Michael Cimino


john-cazale-the-conversationThe reason lies with these five 1970s American masterpieces, all nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture. The tapestry of themes (immigration, crime, technology, surveillance, gambling, greed, gender, family, friendship, the Vietnam War) recurring on those classic movies explain America like no history book can.

..Critics’ Picks: The Conversation © The New York Times.

john-cazale-the-godfather-part-iiIt is an indisputable fact that the more films an actor makes the greater the chance of bad movies. However, such truism does not – must not, in fact – contradict the notion that what really matters is not the ratio of good films to bad ones he or she has, but how good and important are the ones that count. Naturally, an artist must be judged by their ability to produce works of art worthy of preservation.

..What an Entrance!… What a Presence! ♦ Dog Day Afternoon Credits.

john-cazale-dog-day-afternoonIf the artist in question is Meryl Streep, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro – all very much capable of immortalizing complex characters through subtle and nuanced performances, then it is immaterial how many movies they make, because a handful of films are enough to place them in the pantheon. John Cazale as a great among greats had the distinction of a perfect career.

Like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was also fearless in his choice of roles, Cazale was one of the greatest character actors of all time. Always pushing the leading actors to further depths, Cazale’s perfectionist approach to acting and presence ought to become landmarks in the history of the medium. As mentioned by his friends in the short documentary about his career, I Knew It Was You, Cazale had a valuable vulnerability about him. He wasn’t afraid to show us fear, anxiety, insecurity, weirdness – universal weaknesses that embarrasses most of us.

..∗ There is no intention to breach copyright with the film’s exposure in the blog, as it is presented here exclusively for educational purposes. ∗


john-cazale-the-deer-hunterNothing left to say but thank you Fredo, Stan, Sal and Stan because this is this and this ain’t something else. You can handle things! You’re smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… Maybe see you in Wyoming! The last words have to come from the person closest to him to the very end, the three-time winner of the Academy Awards, Meryl Streep: ‘He was such a special human being and a uniquely talented actor.’


February 2017. ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo Ricardo Pizzeghello.

Diner (1982), Barry Levinson

A wonderfully acted, thought-provoking movie, Barry Levinson’s 1982 Diner delves into the minds of young people and focus on the apparent dichotomy between the natural inclination towards rebellion and the necessity of conforming to a life of acceptance and responsibility.

diner-2The young characters in Levinson’s Diner are at the threshold of modern times. As the end of the 50s signals the twilight of innocence, the friends at the centre of this coming-of-age tale begin contemplating changes which will affect their lives in unparalleled ways. More remarkable still is the fact that not only those people and their world were at the cusp of a profoundly shift in contemporary mores, but the actors involved in the film were also at the dawn of their stardom. Continue reading

Happiness (1998), Todd Solondz

Awkwardly funny for some but definitively uncomfortable viewing for most, Todd Solondz’s 1998 Happiness – this haunting Freudian movie – deals with difficult subjects such as masturbation and paedophilia by cracking open American suburban angst in a non-judgemental way.

happiness-2The themes explored in Solondz’s Happiness are so extremely hard to swallow that these might distract viewers from an obvious thread permeating the entire movie: those seeking happiness will forget about living and thus end up miserable. All the main characters in the film seem to be going through emotional rollercoasters; all of them, deeply unhappy, even the ones faking some sort of normality. It is inevitable that at the core of these characters’ problems sits your typical family, for as Philip Larkin knew well, ‘they fuck you up, your mum and dad.’

Continue reading

Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock

Tense, clever and with a murder at the centre of the story based on a morally repellent premise, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 Rope showcases two guys – who seem travesties of Nietzsche’s Übermensch – attempting a very misguided and ill-thought show of superior intellectual prowess.

rope-2In the end, what gets them caught is a stupid mistake, a sign of utter weakness: a hat forgotten inside a cloakroom. How ironic then that two supercilious individuals prove to be the perfect representation of their most derided weakness? Wanting to prove a point of a philosophy which is highly critical of the status quo and highlights the intelligence of those pointing the finger, they forget to check their own stupidity. They simply do not get that Nietzsche’s Superman is meant to represent a hypothetical counterpoint to our modern paradigm, and does not require any practical application. Continue reading

Dersu Uzala (1975), Akira Kurosawa

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Akira Kurosawa’s 1975 Dersu Uzala – a sprawling epic played out in the Russian wilderness – works wonderfully as a metaphor for man’s paradoxical feelings towards the civilizing process and its trappings.

dersu-uzala-2Like the individual himself, society constantly struggles between the two ends of the civilizing spectrum. As it feels divided by such a battle within, it thus divides the people who it is made of. Romantics towards the misguided idea of the noble savage still exist, but none of them feel inclined to trade-off their modern comforts for a rough life. Because words and ideas are an abyss apart from actions and reality, we juggle moral platitudes and change nothing around us. Continue reading

The Pianist (2002), Roman Polanski

Poignant and to the point, Roman Polanski’s 2002 The Pianist, a truly modern masterwork that manages to blend the experience of millions of Jews into the story of a gifted Polish musician, delves deep into the core of Homo Sapiens, placing an awkward mirror in front of us.

the-pianist-2The horrific crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II serve as reminders of the human potential for evil. A potential, as Hannah Arendt understood, inherent in us all. For the Holocaust – or for that matter, any witch-hunt throughout the course of history – would not be possible without the willingness of good and ordinary people. Historical awareness might somehow give us the illusion of a distance between those people and ourselves, but it can’t prevent any of us from acting the exact same way if circumstances arise. Continue reading

Tabu (2012), Miguel Gomes

Evasive, suggestive and yet visually stunning, Miguel Gomes’ 2012 Tabu, this haunting dream of a movie dealing with memory and loss, inserts itself deep into the human soul, forcing us to ask: When is a person really seen for who they are and not for who they are perceived to be?

tabuThe weird beauty of young Aurora’s pet crocodile on the movie’s poster sets a hypnotic and yet appropriate mood for Tabu, Miguel Gomes’ beautiful film. For the story points to our pasts – perhaps, even beyond ourselves – and reaches the essence of what it means to remember. Where is the core of Aurora to be found? In the slightly paranoid old woman or the young and adventurous beauty? Time – inexorable and ruthless – transforms certainties. Traits that once seemed charming in youth acquire a sinister nature later in life. What in the past seemed cowardice, now might seem reasonable prudence. Continue reading

TOWARDS A GREATER CANON : The 2nd Anniversary

the-godfather-2  the-magnificent-ambersons-2  the-decline-of-the-american-empire-2

What’s the motivation behind any writer? Why does he insist in communicating with a blank screen? I’ve always seen two paradoxical forces. On the one hand, the writer only produces text because of an urge to talk to others – there’s this essential need to test some truth against the outside world. His sole intention behind expressing feelings or passing on some truism is to receive feedback for such ideas. Unsure if anyone else agrees with him, the writer basically tries to validate what he perceives as the accurate description of the world. Continue reading

Roman Holiday?! More Like a Tour de Force…

TOWARDS A GREATER CANON is coming back at the beginning of September 2016, when my family and I are once again on British soil. For this hot month of August we’ll be enduring a driving experience across few countries, from Germany to France, through Spain, and ending in Portugal. Hope you all have a great summer (or winter, depending where you are) and see you in a month’s time.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

A timeless classic and a love letter to the cinema, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s 1952 Singin’ in the Rain manages to be simultaneously hilarious and profound; a thought-provoking film that entertains and educates through wonderfully choreographed set-pieces.

singin-in-the-rain-2A little piece of film magic was created when in Singin’ in the Rain a soaked Gene Kelly dances under torrential rain, splashes on puddles and is spotted by a police officer – no other episode in the history of cinema is as iconic as it is idiosyncratic. Although as unforgettable as any edgy, suspenseful scene – perhaps the Russian roulette from The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino) or the coin toss from No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen) – taken out of context, the singing is utterly odd. Watched in isolation, we are entitled to ask: What is this guy blabbing about under such a downpour? Well… no reason is necessary for a demonstration of pure joy. Continue reading