#83: A Woman Under the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) — Dir. John Cassavetes

Part of the Top 150 Films series

A Woman Under the Influence is a devastating masterwork: a twin study of one woman’s downward mental spiral and a dry, humanist deconstruction of acceptable social politics. Family, commitment, desperation, redemption, endurance and the struggles of the working class all come under Cassavetes’ camera, which doubles as an electron microscope in its specificity. Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk transform themselves. Rowlands becomes the distraught Mabel, an unimaginable character, whose performance is nothing short of astonishing. Is she becoming mentally ill, or has she always been this way? Falk inhabits the much more difficult role of the rational husband slowly driven to painful consequences and contradictions in character. He is asked to bear so much weight as the supporter of his crumbling family, yet our feelings remain complicated. Cassavetes, as always, keeps us on edge. His surprisingly dynamic, yet restrained, camera highlights the ravages of mental illness and its devastating effects.