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Woman Under the Influence - Criterion Collection
Woman Under the Influence - Criterion Collection
Actors: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk
Director: John Cassavetes
Genres: Drama
UR     2008     2hr 27min

John Cassavetes devastating drama details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family s struggle to save her from herself. Starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands (in two of the most harrowing screen perfo...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk
Director: John Cassavetes
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Family Life
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/04/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1974
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1974
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 27min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 31
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A harrowing account of one family's mental deterioration...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 03/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I haven't been able to think about anything but this film for some time now. The truth of the matter is that no matter how frustrating the film can be and no matter how irritating the actions of many people within the film may be, the powerful performance by Gena Rowlands is so powerful that it makes the entire exercise well worth it. After seeing this film a few times and salivating over this woman's complete transformation I'm ready and willing to say that she delivers what may possibly be the finest performance by any actress ever committed to the big screen.

So, regardless of your feelings on the film in general, there is no denying that this brilliantly constructed performance deserves to be seen.

The film tells the story of Nick and Mabel Longhetti. They are a middle aged married couple with three kids and a big problem; Mabel isn't all there. Mabel suffers from a mental illness that causes her to repel those around her, especially her husband Nick, who loves her but doesn't understand how to deal with her.

The film is basically a study of what mental illness really is, literally and figuratively. Mabel is the one suffering literally, but Nick is definitely ill and or mad in a more figurative sense; thus making him the more dangerous and unlikable character. His madness transcends the boundaries of `frustrated victim' and he becomes an enabler and an abuser in order to try and restore some sense of order in his home. Mabel, the primary cause of all the turmoil, is never acting out of malicious intent but is always portrayed as trying to restore some sort of peace, and so her actions are perceived as normal compared to her husbands reactions to them. Sure, she is a little eccentric, but her madness is almost dwarfed by the effect it has on those around her.

This was such a smart move, because it challenges all we know about what the true sense of mental deterioration is. Mabel seems to be normal to us; we love her and appreciate her and want her to succeed. Nick appears to be the insane one, thus further impressing on us the off-kilter appearance of normalcy.

It's a bold move, but in my opinion it was well worth it in this case.

While I personally was off put by the unresolved ending provided to the film, I must say that it adds a layer of stark realism to the films controversial subject matter. I won't say how the film ends, but in my opinion it was probably the way it needed to end, regardless of how I would have liked things to end. The thin line between mental health and regression is kept throughout the film and thus is something of a conversation starter upon the films conclusion.

Who was really crazy; Nick or Mabel?

Were they both?


I also thought that the reactions from friends and family were pertinent to the morale of the film. Having the varying degrees of their individual stances on the subject made known helped create an ambiguous tone to the film. This is not a film that sports any answers to the questions it asks but forces the audience to decide for themselves.

I do admit that this film will be off putting to some. The ending, the whole idea of Nick, as well as some other ways in which the disease is regarded may turn some off to the concept director John Cassavetes was toying with here, but truly this is an art piece that deserves to be seen and discussed. I personally love this movie and find it to be a startling and very intensely frank portrait of the American marriage, complete with its ups and downs. It is less a film about mental disease and more a film about human relationships and the excuses we make for our selfish and domineering behavior. Using the backdrop of mental insanity in order to explore this subject was an inspired decision."
Consider Criterion's Five-Film Cassavetes Collector's Set In
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 10/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After previously releasing a definitive five-film set of John Cassavetes (Shadows / Faces / A Woman Under the Influence / The Killing of a Chinese Bookie / Opening Night ), The Criterion Collection is now releasing Cassavetes' 1974 film, A Woman Under the Influence, separately. The five-film Collector's Set is worth the investment in Cassavetes's genius. However, If I were to buy just one of the films of the Cassavete's five-box set, it would be The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, followed by A Woman Under the Influence.

Cassavetes' critically-acclaimed classic, A Woman Under the Influence (1974), stars Gena Rowland as an unhinged suburban housewife and mother, Mabel, whose uninhibited, strange behavior leads her bigoted and bewildered husband, Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk, Columbo), to commit her to a mental hospital for treatment, leaving the family even more dysfunctional than before (though that term was not in use at the time). Nick and Mabel Longhetti may be in love, but they do not belong together, and by the end of the two-and-a-half hour film, viewers will find themselves emotionally exhausted by the two. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Director.

The Criterion edition of A Woman Under the Influence features a newly restored high-definition digital transfer; audio commentary featuring longtime John Cassavetes collaborators Michael Ferris (camera operator) and Bo Harwood (sound recordist/composer); video conversation between actors Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk; an audio interview with Cassavetes by film historians Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson, conducted in 1975; the trailer; a stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos; and an essay by film critic Kent Jones and an interview with Cassavetes from 1975.

G. Merritt"