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.
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.
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.