2/28 Aging in Cassavetes’ Opening Night

In 1977, the same year Star Wars was setting box office records; independent film pioneer John Cassavetes released his film Opening Night. Cassavetes distinctive storytelling style brings the emotional crisis of a middle aged actress coming to terms with her age and past to life. After witnessing the death of a young fan, actress Myrtle Gordon confronts her personal turmoil’s as she deals with conflicts in her career. Characteristic of the director’s work, the film utilizes cinema-verite documentary style cinematography charting her struggle in a realistic way (Cassavetes).
In a pivotal scene the writer of the play in which Myrtle has been starring, confronts her about her inability to successfully play the role. Myrtle reveals the issues she has playing a character experiencing menopause and emotions of a much older woman then the actress is in reality. The 65 year old playwright has difficult understanding Myrtle’s inability to properly feel the role and believes she is trying to deny the fact that she is growing older. Myrtle defends her resistance to playing the role by expressing her fear that if she successfully plays the role the public will see her as an older actress and her acting opportunities will be greatly limited. She desires to bring her emotions more to the surface she believes the young girl that died in the accident encompasses.
As this scene illustrates, Myrtle’s struggle addresses fear that actresses have of aging and the limits it will place on their career. Furthermore, it conveys a universal nostalgia for one’s youth which is viewed by Myrtle as a time when she could access her emotional artistic energy easily, as age has buried her feelings deeper within. In another clip in which Cassavetes talks about the film, he rants about why people should go to see an unconventional film like Opening Night. He contends that the film is about everyone’s desire to express their emotions theatrically.

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