Skip to main content
A Woman Under the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence

This event has passed

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


John Cassavetes


Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Katherine Cassavetes

Country of Origin






155 min

Book Tickets

This event has passed.



Sam Shaw


John Cassavetes


Mitch Breit, Al Ruban


David Armstrong, Sheila Viseltear, Beth Bergeron

Original Music

Bo Harwood

Art Director

Phedon Papamichael

More Films in This Series

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story of a New York bank robbery which turned into a hostage siege (and a media spectacle), Sidney Lumet's gripping movie showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the homosexual, married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre


The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma's career, Carrie takes Stephen King's horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller".

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

All the President's Men

This gripping account of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation into the Watergate break-in is a masterclass of cinematic craft from director Alan J Pakula (Klute; The Parallax View) and DP Gordon Willis (The Godfather).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Phantom of the Paradise

De Palma’s delirious mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and 70s glam-rock is the musical/horror/comedy freak-out that Rocky Horror wanted to be.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Parallax View

The most lucid and ingenious, the most deeply, creepily satisfying of paranoia thrillers, Alan J. Pakula's film posits an assassination corporation. Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is on to Them, or so he believes…

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre


A passion project for producer-star Warren Beatty, this frothy boudoir comedy of Beverly Hills manners views its hairdresser hero's bed-hopping with a certain sadness. Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher come along for the ride.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre