Angry Robot

A Woman Under the Influence

Dude, I loved it, so does that mean we tie? There’s no question AWUTI’s a great film. No, it’s not the sort of thing I normally like, but yes, I enjoyed it. A few notes.

  1. The acting. That shit is way ahead of its time, no? I couldn’t believe Rowlands.
  2. Here’s Carney’s thoughts and also Ebert’s.
  3. My cat started wigging out in the middle of Mabel’s return scene. It was darting around pouncing on anything it could find, mewling, whining, and such. I even started darting around in a confused attempt to get it to shut up and relax. Then it hit me: of course! It’s getting traumatized! The family’s screaming at each other and the cat don’t know what’s going on!
  4. Whereas I thought Faces seemed amateurish, I could tell this one was finely crafted. The structure is impeccable. I even thought a lot of the outdoor scenes were shot beautifully, even though I know they were done on the cheap and if it were made today, it would be on DV.
  5. If only he had lavs (aka lavaliers aka tiny, wireless clip-on mics). Some of the sound was pretty bad. (Cheap complaint, I know.)
  6. Simple. Haunting. Parable of the creator with a disturbing message. Prophet that no-one wants to hear.
  7. The end credits are magnificent: the family returns to normalcy and they clean their house in the background. Strong sense that this story continues, but the film has to end sometime. (Leaving the door open for AWUTI 2: Still Under the Influence?)
  8. I think next I’d like to watch Bookie and Opening Night. I’d love to watch Gazzara for an entire film and at this point I’d watch Rowlands knit a sweater.
  9. Ÿ and his Cassy to D and his Kuby is an age-old filmic binary opposition that started as Lumieres vs. Melies. The Lumieres made such entrancing films as Workers Leaving the Factory, Melies filmed magic and trickery. I could go on, but maybe I’ll wade through all that when I finally do a thing on Carney.

7 comments on "A Woman Under the Influence"

  1. Retard says:

    Your cat is an ‘it’? For shame.

  2. D says:

    It’s not my cat really, it’s my roommates. Its gender is confusing, since it’s a chick but it’s named Gary Valk.

  3. ÿ says:

    1. Gena Rowlands – our greatest living actress.
    2. I dreamed I was dining out with you and Ebert the other night. I was impressed by his sensitivity, the wounded and respectful way he had of avoiding eye contact with me. He was really quite sweet, and I was miserable knowing he’d read what I wrote about him. At some point in the evening I said something that made him laugh and his eyes darted over to let me know he thought it was funny, if that was ok with me. I sensed I was forgiven. Ah! Forgiven by Ebert! (It felt great.)
    3. You’re a good man to defer to cats on AWUTI – they process the tension Cassy worked so hard to get into his films, the tension that led so many to think he didn’t know what he was doing at the time. Go Gary Valk!
    4. “The structure is impeccable.” Faces more so. I’ll watch any movie in the world to get you to give Faces a second chance, if you’re still down with competing*. You like Gena Rowlands and would watch her knit a sweater? She plays a Lady of the Night in Faces, and you know how hookers never seem like hookers on the screen? You know how actresses are often visibly thrilled to be able to show their ‘dark side’, and how this prevents them from seeming authentically dark? Rowlands delivers the straight goods – dread and desperation unsuccessfully masked by facade. It’s difficult for me to praise her enough. (I don’t know why it’s important that you have a high opinion of Faces, but it is. It’s the best movie ever made. Put simply – What An Ending!!! If you try it out again I’ll buy you some ice-cream.)
    6. I don’t see anyone making female characters as real as Mabel, but the good news is, people try. We gotta give Cassy props – he saw how cinema was using women, and defied it to the bitter end. The power of Mabel – this beautiful and unstable woman – to make us see the insecurity of others. The power of Cassy to tease and frustrate that performance out of his wife. The power of his wife to endure this without filing for divorce. The legacy of that couple!
    7. He knew when and where to end a movie, no question.
    8. I’d also recommend Husbands highly. You know how when three guys hang out, one of them inevitably ends up just a little more powerless than the other two? Cassavetes and Falk put Gazzara through considerable hell to get that dynamic into their film. It’s about three guys on a bender that they don’t want to see come to an end. I think Cassavetes called Gazzara’s ‘the greatest performance of all time,’ and there’s something to this. Bookie might well be more up your alley, (and it’s a film I have a special place for in my heart,) but Gazzara never equalled his turn in Hubbies.
    9. I look forward to reading your take on Carney. I really do. I love art at the abstact-expressionist end of things as much as I love those who go for pure naturalism. I love Lynch and Hitchcock and Kubrick as much as I love Mike Leigh and Caveh Zahidi (not just saying this – A Little Stiff is one of my all-time faves) and Tom Noonan (here’s an amazing guy: The Wife is straight-up Chekhovian greatness – painful but accessible – yet he can’t get the money together to finish his most recent picture, which he finished years ago). I’m indignant about the fact that great filmmakers who make films that are uncomfortable or painful can’t get funding, while those who make ‘everything’s so great’ stories never seem to run out of cash, but I’m not that indignant about it, really.
    I love Carney because he explained to me why I loved Cassavetes. He speculated with total frankness about the legitimacy of my taste, and helped me admit there were films I felt more obligated to feel impressed by than I was in love with. He told me what he thought was cheap, what he thought was hard-fought, and what he thought it was about a given movie that made it moving, as opposed to just a cynical attempt at manipulation. Though I see the guy is ridiculously elitist in his way, I still feel his stance is justified. He’s the Gretzky of film crit, and because his talent is inspiring, it doesn’t bother me when he teases the others. I’m convinced it’s tough love – he only wants the best of people. And people who make great entertainment, it seems to me, could deepen their work by suffering some of his criticism – though I’ll catch hell for saying this.

    *After beating me squaring the first time, and tying the second, why wouldn’t you be?

  4. ÿ says:

    “squarely,” that is.

  5. marijke says:

    that’s it. the next competition should be a square-dancing match.

  6. D says:

    Yes! Square dancing, or swearing, or maybe the hand-slap game (as seen in such Seagal films as…)

    Ÿ, you’re really pushing it if you think I’m going to try Faces again. Come on man, let me ease into that shit, alright?

    Then again, I’d be willing to try for $300.

    Gretzky of film crit – metaphor rejected.

  7. ÿ says:

    yeah, sorry – i was totally pushing my luck. I just felt nervous when i read you wanted to watch Opening Night. Bookie is a good one.

    I should learn to shut up.

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