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Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”

Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”  (photo)

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“He appeared in only five movies. All five of his movies were nominated for Best Picture. He worked with the best actors of his generation. He played one of the most iconic characters in film history. Yet today, most people don’t even know his name.” So read the title cards that open “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and is designed as a corrective to the mass ignorance surrounding one of most overlooked American actors of the 1970s. But does it succeed in revealing the man beneath those iconic cinematic images? Let’s find out.

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale
Directed by Richard Shepard

11092010_cazale2.jpgTweetable Plot Synopsis: A brief documentary on the life actor John Cazale, who made only five movies in short career, all of them nominated for Best Picture.

Biggest Success: Cazale died in 1978 at the age of 42 after a battle with lung cancer. Outside of his five feature films — “The Godfather,” “The Conversation,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “The Deer Hunter” — there’s almost no existing footage of him. So fans of Cazale, or at least fans of those movies, won’t see much they haven’t seen before. What you’ll hear, though, are some unique anecdotes and stories from his peers, people like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, and Meryl Streep, who don’t give a lot of interviews (and by a lot of interviews I mean any at all ever) but made time to talk about what sort of man and what sort of actor Cazale was.

11092010_cazale3.jpgBest Moment: Film critics understand the craft of filmmaking, but I don’t think a lot of them truly understand the craft of acting, certainly not in the way that trained actors do. Which is why it’s so great to hear actors like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Buscemi gush about Cazale in “I Knew It Was You.” They can scrutinize his work in ways that outside observers can’t and they pick up on subtle gestures and choices most of us miss. In the section of the film about “The Deer Hunter,” Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi assess Cazale’s performance so carefully it will make you look at his role in a completely new way.

Special Features: The DVD from Oscilloscope Pictures includes a commentary from director Richard Shepard about why he wanted to make the documentary and all the great stuff he had to cut to hit the 40-minute runtime that his distributor, HBO Documentary Films, demanded. The commentary’s sort of a double-edged sword: it’s great to learn that Cazale was a passionate baseball who snuck away from the set of “Godfather Part II” to check out games in Havana, but it would have been better to see it in the film. The disc also includes extended interviews with Pacino and playwright Israel Horowitz, an essay on Cazale by critic Mark Harris, and two short films from the 1960s, “The American Way” (1962) and “The Box” (1969), that Cazale starred in and photographed, respectively.

11092010_cazale4.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release? At only forty minutes, you couldn’t really release “I Knew It Was You” in theaters. If this film were an bonus feature on a “Godfather” box set, it would be the highlight of the package. As its own film, it’s more an appetizer than a full meal; as wonderful as it is to hear his colleagues speak about him, this documentary is as frustratingly brief as Cazale’s career. People say, for example, that Cazale brought a lot of pain to his performances but we never really learn where that pain came from. Viewers will learn about Cazale the actor, but Cazale the man remains a bit of a mystery. Still, this a must-watch (if not a must-buy) for fans of these movies and for anyone who likes to hear actors talk about acting.

For Further Viewing: an interview about “The Deer Hunter” with director Michael Cimino, who declined to contribute to “I Knew It Was You.” He talks about Cazale around the seven minute mark.

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Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

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Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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