I’m hoping that I Knew It Was You, Richard Shepard‘s doc about the late John Cazale, is going to air on HBO more than just once — i.e., tomorrow night (6.1) at 8 pm. That’s the only showing I can find on HBO’s site but maybe I’m just too lazy to find the others.
In any event, here’s a review that I posted about 17 months ago:
Richard Shepard‘s I Knew It Was You is a longish short (40 minutes) about the late great John Cazale. He was a brave, talented, funny-looking character actor with a big forehead who didn’t last very long, but left a deep and lasting impression.
Cazale’s masterwork was creating the legendary Fredo — a pathetic but touching figure — in the first two Godfather films. He also played the psychotic, fruit-loopy Sal in Dog Day Afternoon, a surveillance guy named Stan in The Conversation, and another guy named Stan in The Deer Hunter.
And that was it. Five films. A career cut short due to the 42 year-old Cazale dying of cancer right after shooting his Deer Hunter scenes in April 1978. Tough break and horribly sad.
But Cazale is remembered by people who know from great acting, by fans of classic ’70s films, and obviously by his friends and co-workers, most of whom appear in Shepard’s film — onetime girlfriend Meryl Streep, costars Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Gene Hackman; directors Francis Coppola and Sidney Lumet ; and modern admirers Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Brett Ratner (who’s also one of the producers).
I Knew It Was You isn’t what I or anyone else would call a shattering work of game-changing genius. It’s just a straight, honest and eloquent remembrance of a very worthy and gifted man. Neat, trim and clean. Anyone who remembers and treasures the way Cazale made Fredo into one of the saddest and most emotionally vulnerable little men of the modern cinema needs to see this.
Nobody explains why Cazale’s Conversation and Deer Hunter characters had the same name. I’m sure there’s a story behind this.
The way Cazale crumpled down to a curb, hung his head and cried out “Papa! Papa” after Marlon Brando‘s Vito Corleone was shot on a street in Little Italy is, for me, indelible and unforgettable.
Like all great artists, Cazale drew from his own hurt and history and put it right out there. Hiding and pretending and putting on a slick movie-actor front weren’t in his vocabulary. He was a man of respect, loyalty and courage. Think of what he might have done if cancer hadn’t come along.