Release Me (Guest Blogpost)

Masterful film waiting to be released.
gazzara by Brian Mills
A review of director Joseph Rezwin’s “Gazzara,” from Brian Mills’ “RELEASE ME” series,
in which he reviews films that did not get distributed.

The first time I became aware of this film was when I was scanning the screening schedule of the Locarno International Film Festival and I immediately e-mailed director Joseph Rezwin that this film had to be distributed world-wide as a tribute to Ben Gazzara. The documentary allows us the viewer to eavesdrop on an absorbing conversation between Joe and Ben as they walk together, a fan and his muse. The film is a candid portrait of the man by a man who admired him from a distance after they first met on the set of John Cassavetes’ “Opening Night.” Gazzara’s life, on and off screen, was as rich and deep as his voice. Here we shadow Ben and Joe’s steps as they retrace some of the actor’s favourite haunts from his early beginnings: the influence of the Actor’s Studio, visiting the magnificent Radio City Music Hall. Interspersed are clips of some of Ben’s movies that resonated a lot with me, having screened many as a projectionist. But what really stood out were the unexpected interruptions by passers-by on the street that stopped Ben to shake his hand and tell him how they loved him ... those memories, like this movie, are priceless.

Thanks Ben for the memory.

Thanks Joe for capturing it.

I never got to meet Ben Gazzara, but I felt I knew him like a brother. Our relationship was via the silver screen, treasured moments of time. He died on February 3rd, the same date as his dearest friend John Cassavetes. One could imagine the laughter and tears that reunion would have brought in a starry heaven.

From his meteoric debut as Jocko De Paris, the sadistic military cadet sergeant in “The Strange One,” his silver screen lineage has been impressive: “Anatomy of a Murder” opposite James Stewart, where he played army Lieutenant Frederick Manion charged with murdering the rapist of his seductive wife. He was behind bars again in “Convicts 4,” a film that had not been released on video until only a few years ago. Ben was memorable as John Resko, a convicted murderer who became an artist. His supporting players were Sammy Davis Junior and Rod Steiger. Ten years later Ben made the first of three films with John Cassavetes. “Husbands” was about three friends, away from their wives. The film, because of money difficulties, nearly never happened, but John’s ingenuity convinced backers. It formed a strong relationship between Ben and John off screen and on. “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” and “Opening Night” followed. Ben also was memorable in “Saint Jack” and “They All Laughed,” both directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Whatever part he played Ben had style.

Brian Mills, a British film writer based in London, fell in love with movies at age four. This and other articles are available on his web magazine “Movies by Mills.”

the magazine Movies by Mills here.
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