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ReFocus: The Films of Elaine May$
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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Dean Brandum

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440189

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440189.001.0001

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Mikey and Nicky (1976)—Elaine May and the Cassavetes Connection

Mikey and Nicky (1976)—Elaine May and the Cassavetes Connection

(p.119) Chapter 6 Mikey and Nicky (1976)—Elaine May and the Cassavetes Connection
ReFocus: The Films of Elaine May

Jeremy Carr

Edinburgh University Press

Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky (1976) bears an obvious indebtedness to John Cassavetes, not just because of his commanding presence as one of the film’s two primary stars, but in a kindred approach to cinematic form, acting style, and narrative construction. But what makes Mikey and Nicky so original has to do with her own idiosyncratic vision, and how she absorbs and manipulates the Cassavetes persona to suit her ambitions. It is evident May has built the film around Cassavetes, with regards to his particular brand of drama and an unpolished aesthetic he helped popularize. Each influencing and complementing the other, May and Cassavetes revel in a shared penchant for authentic spontaneity and improvisational interactions. It is a candid cinema that hinges on unrestrained, painfully intimate physicality and an audacious desire to push all facets of viewer engagement beyond the norm. The Cassavetes influence is undeniable, but this is an Elaine May film, made by someone with a reverence for the ground-breaking work that came before her, but also by someone who successfully carves out her own niche in American cinema.

Keywords:   Elaine May, Women’s Filmmaking, Women Directors, Mikey and Nicky (film), John Cassavetes, Independent cinema

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