Go to Our Screening of ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ Tonight in Williamsburg
For the second feature in our screening series with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation at Nitehawk cinema, we present a gem from independent maverick John Cassavetes called A Woman Under the Influence. The 1974 drama concerns a troubled housewife and features a jaw-dropping performance by Gena Rowlands. It’s a performance that is rightfully counted as one of the greatest acting achievements of all time. Simultaneously life-affirming and soul-crushing (often within the same scene), this is not cookie-cutter cinema. These are heavy, complex themes explored by unhinged actors twirling in a maelstrom of emotions, and if you want to make it through this thing without having a breakdown we’d recommend dulling your senses with a stiff drink. Also, Kim Gordon will be on hand to introduce the film and help you cope with what you’re about to see.
To get you in the mood, we asked a few of our favorite cinema buffs to weigh in on the film. There are a few small spoilers, so if you really enjoy being completely blindsided when you walk into a theater, maybe just show up at Nitehawk tomorrow and be blown away.
- Introduction by Greg Eggebeen
“A Woman Under the Influence” is a terrific, evocative title, but a very strange one for a filmmaker previously partial to the bluntness of unadorned plural nouns: Shadows, Faces, Husbands… titles that dare you as a viewer to draw your own conclusions about their meanings. But this one, well, it all seems laid out for you, right? She’s under the influence! This is a movie about the dangers of alcoholism! It does have a kind of mid-70s “afterschool special” ring to it.
Perhaps that’s what I thought I was getting into when I walked into a theater at age 20 to watch this movie. And yep, right off the bat, there’s Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti looking very down-and-out indeed, trashed at a sleazy LA bar. But oh boy, I had no idea where this thing was headed. I had no clue that by the end of it alcohol would seem almost incidental to this story—a kind of red herring, like making a movie about Al Capone and calling it The Tax Evader. Mabel Longhetti is far too powerful a force for her behavior to be ascribed to any particular “influence.” This woman is the influence.