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USA 1974
Directed by
John Cassavetes
141 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Woman Under The Influence. A

The last of Cassavetes’ emotionally torrid cinema verité chamber pieces, originally written as a play that was never produced because his wife, Gena Rowlands pointed out that it would be impossible to perform night after night, it tells the story of the troubled marriage of Nick (Peter Falk), a construction worker and his emotionally unstable wife, Mabel (Gena Rowlands).

The film belongs to Rowlands, although of course without the director’s dedication and that of his repertory company, to “being real”, the project of exposing the human heart in all its vulnerability would not have been achieved. This of course makes for a far less tidy, sometimes taxing, film than the mainstream would ever allow and there are uneven passages that most director’s would have left on the cutting room floor but warts-and-all in form as much as performance is very much Cassavetes' aesthetic and they are an integral part of the overall effect. The film also includes a memorably strong performance by Falk as the traditionally Italian husband and father completely out-of-tune with his wife despite loving her in his own way and in truth the source of Mabel's problems

Despite the characteristically gruelling grappling with emotional pain by his protagonists, Cassavetes ends the film on relatively upbeat ending making for an interesting comparison to the formally similar but less positive ending of Faces (1968), the first of this group of his films.

FYI: The original theatrical version had a running time of 155 mins.

DVD Extras: Stills Gallery. Available as part of Shock’s excellent 7 disc JOHN CASSAVETES COLLECTION that includes also Shadows, Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (both the 108m and 135m versions) and Opening Night in new transfers. Also included is the documentary, A Constant Forge - The Life and Art of John Cassavetes by Charles Kiselyak and a booklet of recent articles about the life and work of Cassavetes. Coming in at a total run-time of 945m this set will be a must-have for anyone interested in independent American cinema.

Available from: Shock Entertainment

 

 

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