Bridging the worlds of cinema and literature, our new recurring series Print Screen invites our favorite authors to present films that complement and have inspired their work, with discussions and book signings to follow screenings. For this installment, on the occasion of the publication of his widely acclaimed novel City on Fire, author Garth Risk Hallberg joins us to present John Cassavetes’ dreamy crime-thriller/fantasy Gloria.
Garth Risk Hallberg was born in Louisiana and grew up in North Carolina. His writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The New York Times, Best New American Voices 2008, and, most frequently, the online literary magazine The Millions; a novella, A Field Guide to the North American Family, was published in 2007. He lives in New York with his wife and children.
John Cassavetes, USA, 1980, 35mm, 123m
Gena Rowlands plays the titular ex-moll in Cassavetes’s crime-thriller/fantasy, dreamily enhanced by Bill Conti’s jazz score and The King of Comedy D.P. Fred Schuler’s cinematography. Unfortunate happenstance pairs Gloria with a 6-year-old boy (John Adames) after his family is murdered by the Mafia, and the odd couple takes to the New York City streets, fleeing an interminable succession of gangsters. Despite Cassavetes’ initial reluctance to direct the screenplay, he accents the melodramatic plot with a poetic affection for his displaced characters. Rowlands’s hard-talking, gun-toting performance, a display of virtuosic range, earned her a second Oscar nomination for Best Actress (after A Woman Under the Influence).
Garth Risk Hallberg on Gloria: “A novelist whose subject is New York in the ’70s has a wealth of cinematic sources at his disposal, from Mean Streets to Manhattan. And for the thrills it coaxes from the ruined city streets, John Cassavetes’ Gloria certainly belongs in that exalted company. But it was Cassavetes’ peculiar formal genius, and the mirroring genius of Gena Rowlands—the explosive sense that anything might happen—that I found the most illuminating as I tried to capture that time when ‘everything was on the verge.’ Fire up the popcorn and dim the lights: research has never been so fun.”