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John Cassavetes's galvanic drama (1968) about one long night in the lives of an estranged, well-to-do married couple (John Marley and Lynn Carlin) and their temporary lovers (Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel) was the first of his independent features to become a hit, and it's not hard to see why: it remains one of the only serious American films that takes the middle class seriously, depicting the compulsive, embarrassed laughter of people facing their own sexual longing and some of the emotional devastation brought about by the so called sexual revolution. (Interestingly, Cassavetes set out to make a trenchant critique of the middle class; but his characteristic empathy for his characters makes this a far cry from simple satire.) Shot in black and white and 16-millimeter with a good many close-ups, the film provides an unsparing yet compassionate "documentary" look at emotions most movies prefer to gloss over or cover up; adroitly written and directed and superbly acted--the aforementioned leads and Val Avery are all uncommonly good--this is one of the most powerful American films of the 60s and a highly influential classic. (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, October 4 through 10)

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