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Opening Night
dir. John Cassavetes / USA 1977 / 144’
subtitles: Polish


Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, Paul Steward, Zohra Lampert, Laura Johnson, Seymour Cassel


IFF Berlin 1978 – Otto Dibelius film award, best actress

Film description

Opening Night was the next great Gena Rowlands performance. She plays Myrtle, a mature actress, a star of the New York stage. During rehearsals for a new piece, Myrtle suddenly refuses to play her part according to the script, feeling she has to take on the playwright/director, but also the whole world. On opening night, she does it her way.

Filled with reflexivity, i.e. art referencing itself, Opening Night is a film is about another art form - theatre, where Gena Rowlands plays an aging star (which she was), with a stage husband, Maurice Aarons (whom she divorces in the film) played by Rowlands’ real-life partner, Cassavetes. The viewer must deal with the accumulation of three different realities: stage show, filmic reality, and extra-filmic reality.

Audiences initially rejected Opening Night, though the film garnered acclaim over time. Director Pedro Almodóvar pays special tribute to the film in his All About My Mother (1999), where the plotpoint – the death of the son in a car accident as he waits for the star leaving the theater – is almost an exact copy of a scene from Opening Night. In Cassavetes’ movie, a devoted fan dies fascinated with Myrtle Nancy, causing the actress to rebel.

Elżbieta Durys

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