It was maybe a little bit too long (2 ½ hours) and it is not for everyone. By that I mean . . . well, what am I trying to say? Well, I'm not quite sure. How about this: You know how they say people eat hot chiles or go bungie jumping or rock climbing and stuff because they need to experience a more primal and dangerous world? They get a buzz from the danger?
Well, you can watch "A Woman Under the Influence" for pretty much the same effect. I got the following from Wikipedia:
When Richard Dreyfuss appeared on “The Mike Douglas Show” with Peter Falk, he described the film as “the most incredible, disturbing, scary, brilliant, dark, sad, depressing movie” and added, “I went crazy. I went home and vomited,” which prompted curious audiences to seek out the film capable of making Dreyfuss ill.Now, it’s pretty much a cliché for actors to say things like that – and a lot of ordinary people get turned off by that sort of crafty boast – but that’s not too far off the mark, IMHO. If you grew up in an emotionally chaotic, fucked-up family, you’ll relate to the movie probably too much. Maybe it'll work out the same even if you didn't.
In the scene that follows, run-of-the-mill housewife Gena Rowlands has just come home from a psychiatric hospital and her family is having a little get-together. It goes badly. Peter Falk is her husband. The guy with the glasses and the slicked back hair is the physician who committed her (a lovely scene, that) and the guy at the end of the table is her asswipe of a father. The kind, but weak, lady is her mother.
Everyone is packing her in too tight and she can't breathe. Feel the claustrophobia. Feel the selfishness. Feel the utter cluelessness. Feel the dysfuntion, the desperation, and the way some invisible but tremendous force -- beyond anyone’s control -- crashes people together, and then hurls them apart, again and again and again.
As I said before, it’s unpleasant. You have to be fairly serious about cinema and willing to take a risk to seek this stuff out. Personally, I recommend you don’t click on the link. Here it is, anyway.
P.S. We watched the Criterion documentary on Cassavetes' maybe a week ago. It was unhelpful. We eventually shut it off because it was little more than a parade of interviews with actors saying how much Cassavetes' work was all about LOVE. Well, it took me a long time to figure out what those actors were all talking about. That force I mentioned a second ago? That force that crashes people into each other and then tears them apart? Actors call that LOVE. And that's pretty much why I got out of "THE THEATER."