Friday, June 28, 2013

Film #153: HUSBANDS (John Cassvetes, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara...and...)

I have, of course, been a John Cassavetes fan since I first saw 1968's groundbreaking Faces in the late 80s. I then had to track back and see 1975's A Woman Under the Influence (starring the stunning Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk).  I still think that's the guy's best movie, though I nearly equally love his initial effort, 1959's Shadows (which, it's incredible to say, is arguably the first indie production, at least as far as we see the label now).  I also adore 1979's Opening Night (which might have more to say about Cassevetes' dangerous work methods than any other of his films), 1976's The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (with the sublime lead performance from Ben Gazzara), and 1971's Minnie and Moskowitz (with Rowlands and frequent Cassavetes collaborator Seymour Cassell).  But Cassavetes' 1970 film Husbands might have more to say about the man, and his his fellow thieves Falk and Gazzara, than any of his other works.  With most of Cassavetes' films, I feel it's completely fruitless to talk about them.  One must only experience them (and I think the filmmaker and his collaborators would agree...I mean...whaddaya gonna talk about?).   So,'s the trailer for Husbands:

And now here is something extraordinary: a confluence of the film and of TV, with Dick Cavett hosting his first 45-minute show (after doing only 30 minute shows before, because 60s TV execs couldn't conceive of a longer late night talk show--minus Johnny Carson--surviving the experiment--they couldn't even fathom a talk show going all the way to 60 minutes).  Cavett's guests?  Cassevetes, Gazzara, and Falk (who has some terrifically honest moments towards the end), who were all on stage to ostensibly promote Husbands but also--to Cavett's surprise--were also there to upset the extremely stodgy 60s talk show stance (which Cavett was fighting against anyway).  Cavett, with his erudite stand-up ways, shows his dauntless chops for over 20 minutes, putting up with their wild antics (and I think these guys really wanted to initiate Cavett into their group--they seem to clearly love him, and his wit, even though they want to destroy the talk show ethos--and who knows...maybe Cavett was in on the joke..).  Nevertheless, a discussion definitely begins at the 19 minute mark (for those who are impatient). In the meantime, we see many pratfalls, a walk-off, a walk-on, uncomfortable silences, stunning dramatics (Gazzara looks, sometimes amazingly, as if he's in a movie throughout), and, in all, unmatched and often unbearable television which, ultimately and gladly, comes to illustrate (straight) male affection for other males (something that is rarely seen nowadays on film).  This kind of thing would never be seen on today's TV, much less on today's movie screens.  The power for this, on so many levels, has been lost and now, actually, cannot even be conceived of:

1 comment:

Sam Juliano said...

I just saw Cassevetes last week in ROSEMARY'S BABY. But of course, that was just a sideline in his career as he is regarded by most as one of the greatest figures in independent American cinema. I am not the huge fan that so many others are, but I do agree Dean that A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE is his most accessible work. I also respect FACES, and the film you highlight here - HUSBANDS. His use of cinema verite and improvisation of course is legendary and he remains even after his death influential.

Great post here Dean!