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With: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Diahnne Abbot, Seymour Cassel, Margaret Abbott
Written by: John Cassavetes, Ted Allan, based on a play by Ted Allan
Directed by: John Cassavetes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 141
Date: 02/01/1984

Love Streams (1984)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Cassavetes went into Love Streams knowing he was dying, and while it's as difficult and as disturbing as the rest of his body of work, it also comes to light as an oddly tender film, and open-hearted work.

Cassavetes stars as Robert Harmon, a writer of trashy novels about sex and women. As "research," he hangs out -- and often sleeps with -- all manner of women, but mainly prostitutes. To him, love exists only in a fleeting moment and not much more.

His sister, Sarah, has a much stronger view. Her smothering, all-encompassing brand of love has led to a divorce from her husband (Seymour Cassel); her daughter (Margaret Abbott) has chosen to live with him. She tries a trip to Europe but mostly winds up lugging a mountain of suitcases around, so she visits her brother.

Meanwhile, he has been assigned to baby-sit a son (probably a "mistake" from a long-forgotten sexual experience) for the weekend; he drives to Vegas, leaves the kid in a hotel room and goes out boozing and whoring for the night. Later, Sarah brings home a menagerie of new pets to teach Robert how to love something.

As if that weren't enough, Love Streams wraps up with a truly memorable, frightening, dazzling series of dreams and hallucinations, taking place during a vicious rainstorm.

Though Cassavetes has a reputation for looseness and improvisation, he is at his most and deliciously visual here, using the huge home, the circular driveway, windows and dark corners for extreme emotional impact. Characters slip in and out of shadows, or around doorways, just as often as their characters slip from emotional accessibility to emotional obscurity.

This is a great film, and worthy of the effort it takes to sit through it. Cassavetes and playwright Ted Allan adapted a play by Allan. Peter Bogdanovich reportedly directed one scene, without credit. In 2003, it was selected as one of Entertainment Weekly's Top 50 Cult Movies.

The above review pertains to the French, Region 2, PAL DVD release. Though the transfer is lovely, it includes non-removable French subtitles (and no English subtitles). There are a couple of short making-of featurettes, narrated in French, but spoken in English. The disc was released in 2003, and the distributors are listed as Cine Malta, Night & Day and CNC. In 2014, the Criterion Collection made Love Streams available in America on DVD and Blu-ray.

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