Too Late Blues
due to the biases of Raymond Carney’s lamentably over-cited work on John Cassavetes, Too Late Blues has often been
regarded, sight unseen, as a minor work in the œuvre – a straitjacketed “Hollywood” interregnum (alongside A Child Is Waiting, 1963) between the freer, experimental,
independently produced Shadows (1959)
and Faces (1968).
made available on DVD in 2012 thanks to Olive Films, Too Late Blues’ status in cinema history
is sure to change.
is certainly a more conventional revisitation of elements from Shadows: jazz club milieu, Beat/hipster
lifestyle, the problem of creative, musical freedom versus commercial,
there is much that is remarkable in Too
Late Blues: the unusual dramatic rhythms; an artfully meandering narrative
construction; an unflinching exploration of difficult emotions; sudden switches
of mood; outbursts of violence; and performances that go well beyond
Bobby Darin as jazz muso Ghost and Stella Stevens as
aspiring singer Jess are surprising and superb.
intimacy is often an uncertain, mutually troubling encounter in Cassavetes’ cinema, but here it is downright scary: the
cocktail of desire, doubt, fear, ambition and alcoholic intoxication take a
tough toll on Ghost and Jess.
with The Hustler (1961), most men
here (especially Everett Chambers as the creepy music agent, Benny) are potential
rapists or predatory pimps, and women live in a constant state of near-suicidal
insecurity. They are aware at every moment of both their attractiveness (“Where
do I stand without my body?”, asks Jess) and their
perceived lack of real worth in a man’s world.
fact, this bleakness covers both genders: Ghost, too, is pressured into
becoming a gigolo for an older jazz-patroness, much to the detriment of his
and producing as well as directing, this is a more personal project for Cassavetes than has been hitherto recognised. And not least
so in the charming role for Nick Dennis (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955)
as a gregarious Greek-American, a hard-working guy in charge of his hang-out
© Adrian Martin July 2012