Sunday, April 26, 2009

SFIFF52 Day 4: a Woman Under the Influence

The 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival has begun and runs through May 7th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about one film I've seen or am hotly anticipating.

A Woman Under the Influence (USA: John Cassavetes, 1974)

playing: 5:45 PM tonight at the Castro, with no more showtimes later in the festival.
festival premiere: New York Film Festival, 1974
distributor: Criterion has a DVD out of course, but Cassavetes films should be seen in theatres when the opportunity arises. Brecht Andersch expects the newly-restored print to receive "something of a commercial run" but I wonder if he's being overly optimistic.

I have a confession to make: I have never seen John Cassavetes' a Woman Under the Influence. Shadows, Faces, Opening Night, Love Streams, yes, and all in cinemas. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie on home video only (probably the main reason why I like it the least of these). But not the film that put him the closest to mainstream respectability thanks to its two major Oscar nominations. Gena Rowlands was nominated for Best Actress for her performance; she's expected to attend the Castro screening. And Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director, losing to Francis Ford Coppola, who the festival is honoring May 1st also at the Castro alongside a screening of his 1969 film the Rain People.

It should be noted that initially many critics were hostile to a Woman Under the Influence, and even the positive Variety review had little more to say than that the film was "technically superior to any of John Cassavetes' previous works." Whatever that means in the context of Cassavetes; I suppose I'll find out this evening. All I know for sure is that each Cassavetes film I've seen is wholly different from every other, yet so distinctively part of a larger (love) stream of work that it's impossible not to recognize the author's presence behind the camera (even when he's also in front of it). It's also impossible not to recognize his influence over imitators, for good or ill. I'm eager for tonight, what I expect to be a real highlight of the festival.

SFIFF52 Day 4
Another option: Le Amiche (ITALY: Michaelangelo Antonioni, 1955), which Carl Martin in his round up of SFIFF revival screenings laments was subject to digital restoration, but that won't deter me from partaking.
Non-SFIFF-option for today: Gone With the Wind (USA: Victor Fleming, 1939) at the Stanford, if only to see that crane shot Val Lewton conceived of as a story editor for Selznick, on a big, beautiful screen.


  1. "Wow" as in you can't believe how long you've waited to see Rowlands' remarkable performance?

  2. More just because of the performance, the film, the print, the experience. I'm a pretty patient man so I'm not too surprised I was willing to wait for an opportunity like this one.

  3. This is my favorite Cassavette's film by FAR.

  4. Rachel, have you seen Love Streams yet? It's the one that comes closest to achieving the emotional power of Woman Under the Influence, for me. Faces may be the most formally audacious of those I've seen. Though I should make closer studies of them all before spouting my mouth off like that.