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A Woman Under the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence

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A Woman Under the Influence takes place over the span of a couple of days, with a lengthy coda that takes place months later, after eccentric housewife and mom Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands) has been released from the hospital where she’s been committed by her husband, Nick (Peter Falk). Few screenwriters (and John Cassavetes was always a writer-director) are so impatient with plot; he rarely connects the dots, doesn’t want to explain the roots of Mabel’s condition or how it has manifested in the past, though we may feel with a sense of the answers to these questions after watching it. Raw emotional connection is both its guiding structural principle and the theme. Time and again he omits those beats that usually structure narrative development and throws us into the middle – often, the muddle – of the character’s lives. It’s a technique that effectively removes the artificial filters of generic narrative cinema (even as many of his films choose to interrogate or upend genre). Instead, Cassavetes grasped the excitement of “real time”, the way that long, unbroken scenes can generate multiple, complex and contradictory meanings simply through observing two or more people occupying the same space.

Gena Rowlands is extraordinary – it’s one of the most devastating performances in all cinema – as Mabel. Her innate nuttiness is pushed remorselessly into a full-blown breakdown by the man who professes to love her best: her husband Nick (Peter Falk), who finally can’t face the embarrassment of having her around. The climax is an unforgettably painful and compassionate trial of love.

Along with Raging Bull (1980), made by Cassavetes’s old friend Martin Scorsese, A Woman Under the Influence is the toughest of all great American films. It takes conflicts and dynamics that we all know—all of us—and writes them uncomfortably large… Cassavetes takes us from level to level of Mabel’s withdrawal from reality, and the two passages of her madness are among the most harrowing in movies.

Kent Jones

The primal violence that binds men and woman has rarely been evoked as plausibly or intensely as in this 1974 drama.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker

One of the best films of its decade… it’s one of those extremely rare movies that seem found rather than made, in which the internal dynamics of the drama are completely allowed to dictate the shape and structure of the film.

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Director

John Cassavetes

Cast

Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Katherine Cassavetes

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1974

Language

English

19+
155 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Producer

Sam Shaw

Screenwriter

John Cassavetes

Cinematography

Mitch Breit, Al Ruban

Editor

David Armstrong, Sheila Viseltear, Beth Bergeron

Original Music

Bo Harwood

Art Director

Phedon Papamichael

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