Posted by: Rocky | January 17, 2010

A Woman Under the Influence


I cannot get this film out of my head, and it has been 6 years since I have seen it.  I first heard about it in Roger Ebert’s 100 Great Movies, so I decided to rent it while living in Paris.  I had never seen anything like it.  It is a difficult film to write about, as I am still trying to figure out what I liked about it so much.  It’s realism startled me.  Gena Rowlands delivers the best performance I have ever seen.  Those are 2 things that come to mind.  Rereading reviews on IMDB put some of my thoughts to words:

“Like Cassavete’s earlier independent films, “Woman” has an element of excess, but you come away from the experience with these characters under your skin in ways a film with less excess wouldn’t allow. It’s true this film is probably the height of angst. There are scenes of family arguments that are indeed difficult to watch. At the same time, you are amazed by what you are seeing. The entire cast goes beyond whatever was asked of them, mostly Rowlands, whose character is so completely out there in terms of human behavior the performance could easily have become caricature. Instead Rowlands builds a believable emotional picture of a mind in distress, on the verge of collapse. She’s funny, hateful, scary, sad… you name the emotion, but her character isn’t a hodge podge. It’s a unique personality, like someone you can picture meeting in real life, then later wonder to yourself: What the hell was that?”

Ebert’s insights:

“Because his work felt so fresh, it was assumed that Cassavetes was an improvisational filmmaker. Not true. He was the writer of his films, but because he based their stories on his own emotional experience, and because his actors were family or friends, his world felt spontaneous. There was never the arc of a plot, but the terror of free-fall. He knew that in life you do not often improvise, but play a character who has been carefully rehearsed for a lifetime.”

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