This movie shares a lot with Heat, Paul Morrissey’s third Warhol-produced film that came out a year after Minnie and Moscowitz. Both movies present, in fragmented editing with almost purposeful sound clipping and jump cuts, satires on Hollywood dream land as Morrissey goes all Sunset Boulevard on the dope show’s act and Cassavetes gladly irritates spectators with the exagerration of boy-meets-girl melodrama. However, Cassavetes’ work typically involves a little bit more care towards revealing more than just darker sides and relationships, but real moralistic questioning into the needs that support the relationship; here, that questioning is empty of significance as he pretty much just throws Rowlands and Cassel together and it’s off on the wild romp of endless yelling from there.
Cassavetes is no fool and this movie isn’t mistaken misfire. He eagerly presents little if any real difference between one sad, lonely, messed up man and the man who saves her from him; he makes the classist, racist, and bigot views of many of his characters quite open; he throws jibes at Hollywood romance and twists their cliches—he knows what he’s doing. A yarn about Cassavetes states that he would listen to peoples’ comments about his movies and if they approved of any part of it, he’d cut that part out. Well in this case I approved with the cutting off of a few scenes mid-dialog, because it saved me the effort of sitting through it. However, I recognize that in one way, it could be said that Cassavetes is purposefully trying to bring discomfort. Ergo, success.
However, in that same mode, he has simply done better and more engaging characters. In Woman under the Influence, the same continual stress of overtly dysfunctional and damaging relationships, and the ineffable way in which the characters still stay together, is still supported by a careful building of that relationship that gives true hints and bases for the motivations and processes that pull these nearly insane people together. Here, it feels much more non-sequitor.
That’s not to say these characters aren’t realistic. I used to work at a video store where a regular customer entered who was quite a lot like Moscowitz and the man he saves Minnie from, as well as the man that Moscowitz meets in the diner at the beginning of the movie. He would as much as yell every thought that came to his brain and if he perceived anyone was put off by him (which inevitably everyone was), he would get angry and upset and lash out. However, he was an exception, even amongst all of the possible annoying and maddening customers in that job, I have not met anyone else like him and it’s significant to me that so many of those characters populate and actually meet in this movie. I have the same basic problem with CSI, that it’s not necessarily so wrong that individual characters are in real need of help and have emotional and mental problems, it’s that the entire plot is driven entirely by them.
Back to Morrissey’s Heat, then… these messed up characters meet each other because they are in the same trashy, fleshy subculture of drug-addled existence, and the broken editing style matches their carelessness and complete lack of self-awareness. In Cassavetes’, there’s no real infrastructure to support all of these people running into each other but his own hand in leading the characters along. And Heat is, in its annoying and obnoxious character-laden way, still representative of a group of people who actually act out like that, whereas Cassavetes seems to purposefully remove the filter just to clash with taste.