peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2022 08 08 OpeningNight

Opening Night (1977)

/noise/movies | Link

Somehow very engrossing despite what would seem a very thin premise: an actress (Gena Rowlands) struggles with her role as a woman coming to terms with ageing in a stage play, and is haunted by the killing of a younger woman (Laura Johnson). Despite what that sounds like it's not the usual Hollywood self-servicing reductive stuff; it's an adult movie of the kind they don't make any more, not even for streaming services. Perhaps it helped to know that writer/director and lead heal/ex-lover/second husband John Cassavetes was married to Rowlands in real life, making for some multidimensionality. Rowlands is hypnotic and their final scenes together are a lot of fun. Ben Gazarra had the thankless task of directing the play. Wife Zohra Lampert was fantastic in all her scenes: "you’re so boring” she told him flatly at one point before acting out in the bedroom while he's romancing his leading lady. Another has her squashed into a window frame on a street as those more invested in this fiasco mill around in front of her, ignorant, pushy. Joan Blondell (Nightmare Alley) got to watch her script being butchered. The cinematography and editing are excellent.

Roger Ebert: three stars in 1991. The alcoholism may've cut a bit too close to the bone at the time. Peter Bradshaw in 2007.