Catching up with Cassavetes: #7 – “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974)

A_Woman_Under_the_Influence_pic_5Don’t believe it for one second. Regardless of what poor tormented Mable Longhetti’s hand signal wants you to believe in the above picture, trust me, this woman is not okay. Far from it.

Of all the Cassavetes’ films this is the one I heard about the most. However, “the most was solely about Gena Rowlands and her career defining role as the woman who is under the influence. As to what she was under the influence of, oddly enough, no one ever told me that. I always just assumed it was drugs and/or alcohol. Well, turns out I was wrong. It also turns out that thanks to Cassavetes’ penchant for story telling by way of refreshing minimal exposition and an ambiguously savvy ending that the answer isn’t as simple as it first appears to be.

Here’s what I do know, Mable is bonkers, but just how bonkers is anybody’s guess. Maybe she’s just exceedingly eccentric to the point of being incapable of fitting into society’s so-called normal conventions. After all, what’s so crazy about a woman who loves spaghetti and is able to spontaneously break into dance routines from Swan Lake regardless of what social situation she’s in? As her piece of work husband/oppressor (Peter Falk in an equally complex role as Gena’s) puts it, “Mabel is not crazy, she’s unusual. She’s not crazy, so don’t say she’s crazy.

Essentially what we have here is a two-and-a-half hour inspection of a marriage between two very different emotionally handicapped people. And being that this is a Cassavetes film, those two characters alone aren’t going to be enough to hammer home the drama, dysfunctionality, and overall just uncomfortable vibe. Heck, let’s throw family, co-workers, kids and a greasy haired doctor into the mix while were at it. For God’s sake, the drama just never stops – thankfully, it also never reaches the level of melodrama. What it does do however, is project an uncannily realism that is so disturbing that throughout most of the film I found myself resisting the urge to scream, “Somebody call social services already!”

As it stands right now, if Cassavetes’ first feature, Shadows, had never existed, this would easily be my favorite of his. I love how it forced me to challenge notions of right and wrong without ever once force feeding me what it is I’m supposed to be taking away from it. Even the use of the word Woman in the title deserves some serious contemplating, for clearly other influences are at play here besides the ones effecting Mabel. I could write a whole essay on just that one aspect alone, and there are many more aspects that deserve deeper digging as well. Talk about a densely layered film.

Listen, if I had more energy, a lot more time, and weren’t so worried about spoiling scenes for others who haven’t seen this yet (regardless of how old the film is) than I would go on, and on, and on, and on, and…. and… and… and really, what more could I ask for in a piece of great moving picture art than to have it occupy my mind hours, days, and most likely for weeks, months, and years to come after seeing it. That’s what I call an accomplishment.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Reviews

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Catching up with Cassavetes: #8 – “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (1976) | Filmbalaya.com - November 28, 2014

    […] Catching up with Cassavetes: #1 – “Shadows” (1959) Catching up with Cassavetes: #2 – “Too Late Blues” (1961) Catching up with Cassavetes: #3 – “A Child is Waiting” (1963) Catching up with Cassavetes: #4 – “Faces” (1968) Catching up with Cassavetes: #5 – “Husbands” (1970) Catching up with Cassavetes: #6 – “Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) Catching up with Cassavetes: #7 – “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974) […]

  2. Catching up with Cassavetes: #10 – “Gloria” (1980) | Filmbalaya.com - December 16, 2014

    […] up with Cassavetes: #6 – “Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) Catching up with Cassavetes: #7 – “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974) Catching up with Cassavetes: #8 – “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (1976) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: