FILM: ‘A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE’

The American Cinematheque at Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theater ended a week-long run of John Cassavetes’ films (including a guest appearance by Gena Rowlands) on Sunday with a screening of ‘A Woman Under the Influence.’ One of Cassavetes’ most iconic works, the film examines the unraveling of Gena Rowland and Peter Falk’s on-screen marriage, as Rowlands suffers a prolonged nervous breakdown.

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Rowland’s character, the focus of every character’s anxious attention, is maybe the only character who isn’t crazy. Even though she’s eventually institutionalized, Rowlands’ electric performance captures the spirit of a woman who, like a caged bird, wants only to break free.

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The woman then, is under the influence not of drugs, or even mental illness, but of other people–her husband, her mother-in-law, her friends, her psychiatrist. The film is still today one of the most powerful looks at the complexities of domestic abuse and the fragility of the American family.

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