Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Woman Under the Influence

There's a famous line in Long Day’s Journey when Mary Tyrone walks in with her wedding gown and her son, Jamie mockingly intones, “The Mad Scene. Enter Ophelia!" That might describe Gena Rowland's performance as Mabel Longhetti in John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence (l974). The movie is, of course, like catnip for any actor. Rowlands makes the most of a plum opportunity for virtuosity, playing up her character’s boundary problems by sexualizing her encounters with every stranger she meets. The depiction of this kind of free-floating hysteria is not unrealistic. However, there’s a sense that in eschewing the normal constraints of the commercial cinema with it’s well scripted encounters, for the handheld camera and natural lighting the film somehow errs, becoming unrealistic and even histrionic in its search for realism. Peter Falk plays the part of the harried husband Nick and there’s one really telling moment at the end when he attempts to bully his wife into becoming sane, by threatening to throw her to the floor when she doesn’t come down from a couch. Besides Bo Harwood's score, the   film employs Italian opera that improbably comes out of almost everyone’s mouth; at least two of the members of Nick’s construction crew are tenors of note. The arias are highly romantic and soaring yet they’re a markedly dissonant considering the psychological deterioration that's taking place. This is a clever piece of artifice that unfortunately, like many of the director’s gambits, ends up calling more attention to itself than the world it aims to portray.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.