Cinema Club: Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

Posted on August 5, 2013

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Minnie and Moskowitz (1971, John Cassavetes)

After the super awesome wonder time that was ‘A Woman Under the Influence’, I expected a lot from this film, another one directed by John Cassevetes and again featuring his wife Gena Rowlands. Well, Rowlands once again steals the entire show, but that was about all I enjoyed about this. That and the moustache of course. I’m pretty sure Seymour Moskowitz is the man you can find on those cigarette packets back home with the moustache warning. Without doubt. Anyway, this film revolves around the relationship between Minnie Moore (Rowlands) and Seymour Moskowitz (played by Seymour Cassel). Their relationship is a very peculiar one, both coming from seeming different strands of society, the oddest of odd couples. She works in a museum, he works as a car park attendant. He is happy go lucky (to a degree) but in need of attention, letting life go on and on without too much of a care. She is worried, tired, scared of being alone for the rest of her life. They meet in hilarious circumstances, and everything goes on from there. Got it? Lovely.

As mentioned, Gena Rowlands absolutely sparkles once again. She is glorious as Minnie, perfecting the art of being lost and beautiful once again. Her conversation early on with friend Florence about diminishing romance is one of the highlights of the film, the interchanging of having a lovely night with a friend but being terrified of your age coming off perfectly. I could watch her singing songs slowly with her eyes closed, in some sort of trance, all day long. She endures the date from hell, and practically everything goes past her in a blur. She’s caught up in some strange whirlwind that she can’t process, let alone get through.

Oh, and every male in the film is a total psychopath. We aren’t really like that are we? Anyway, Minnie’s relationship with her married (with kids no less) lover ends after he beats. Then she endures the date from hell with a complete fool. Then in stumbles Moskowitz, and I have no idea wht to make of this fool. His opening scene in the diner is kinda lovable. He’s confronted with a man who is a little confrontational (and Welsh, supposedly) who has lost his wife and tends to go all over the place. Seymour handles himself pretty well though, even sharing his hot dog with the chap. He maintains this dignity when he meets Minnie, in his attempts to save her from THE WORST DATE IN THE WORLD. But, as soon as they leave the car park, he changes into something awful.

The rest of the film from here onward seems like Moskowitz shouting at Minnie and bullying her into doing things against her will. Whether it is kidnapping her into his truck, following her around, or dressing Minnie down for whatever reason, he just comes across as an idiot the whole time. Maybe that is the point, and that he is in so far over his head that his only reaction is defensive and primal. Even so, it didn’t make for a good film, in my particularly leafy book. Take the dance scene for instance. Now, I’m all for encouraging people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, moving out of your comfort zone can be good from time to time. Still, he practically forces her into the whole thing, and regardless of whether she ends up enjoying it you get the overriding feeling that he would end up raping her. Seriously.

And the shouting! The guy doesn’t seem to say anything in the film, instead barking it all out. It makes for a hugely irritating character. He is illogical and desperate. The idea that love is irrational is one that I’m completely on board with, but there is romantic irrational and then you have ridiculous super dumb irrational. Moskowitz falls in the latter category. He even cuts off his moustache! Why would you do such a thing?! All becomes a little clearer once his mother (played by Cassavetes’ own mother again) properly enters the film and almost ruins the entire relationship. Her speech is one of the few parts of the film where sense made an appearance unfortunately.

We are all imperfect, we are all flawed, and this film is a love story that sets out to show this. However, I didn’t need to see it in order to realise that, and no opinion I have on that idea has been impacted by this at all. Maybe the whole film took place in the dreams of Seymour Moskowitz. That would make more sense, to be honest. Disappointing.

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Posted in: Cinema, Reviews