Ty Burr
September 24, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Actually, call it ”John Cassavetes: Seven and One-Fifth Films.” This staggering set from the mad monks at Criterion digitally remasters five of the Indie-film godfather’s most personal cinematic statements — the groundbreaking Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night — plus Charles Kiselyak’s documentary A Constant Forge, Cassavetes’ 108-minute alternate edit of Bookie, and a recut opening of Faces. It may be more semi-improvisational angst than you can handle — and the earlier films have aged badly — but the director’s influence on the cutting edge of the 1960s through today is incalculable. Come for the acting — Gena Rowlands in Faces, Woman, and Opening; Ben Gazzara in Bookie — not the technique. ”I think I’m probably one of the worst directors around,” Cassavetes says in an interview, ”but I do have an interest in my fellow man.”

EXTRAS Interviews with Rowlands, Gazzara, Peter Falk, Seymour Cassel, and others; a 1968 French TV special; a nifty tour through the camera and lighting choices in Faces; a hefty booklet with appreciations by the likes of Martin Scorsese and novelist Jonathan Lethem.

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