So many periodicals send out emails designed to focus the readers on areas of direct interest. This double bill was contained in just such an email from the New York Times.
Your weekly double feature: Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes
Gena Rowlands in a scene from the 1974 John Cassavetes film “A Woman Under the Influence.”Faces Distribution
‘A Woman Under the Influence’ and ‘Gloria’
Over a collaboration that included seven features and a marriage, John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands turned emotional volatility into their own unmistakable form of art, breaking free of the expected rhythms of film direction and acting. There’s no telling what will happen from moment to moment, and they give the impression of making those discoveries on the fly.
Now streaming on HBO Max, “A Woman Under the Influence” turns a blue-collar home into a chaotic battleground where a husband and wife are tangled up in conflicted feelings of devotion and madness. Cleaved into two unequal halves, the film starts with Rowlands’s Mabel behaving so erratically around her children and guests that her husband, Nick (Peter Falk), has her committed. Six months later, she returns more fragile than ever. Every scene seems primed for some terrible detonation, but the film subtly aligns itself with Mabel, whose “crazy” episodes are often triggered by Nick’s hostility and hair-trigger temper.
Rowlands got an Oscar nomination for “A Woman Under the Influence,” and she picked up a second one for Cassavetes’s “Gloria,” which showcases a brassiness that often edges into high comedy. Rowlands stars as a former gangster’s moll suddenly thrust into accidental motherhood when a hit is carried out on her neighbors and she goes on the run with their orphaned son. As it happens, the gangsters are friends of hers, but she has an instinct to protect the poor kid and the loaded revolver to do it. Their relationship is Cassavetes’s idea of sweet, and he pours the modest major-studio resources into the textured New York City backdrop and a jazzy Bill Conti score. — Scott Tobias