Criterion Throwback Review: John Cassavetes’ Devastating ‘A Woman Under the Influence’

In A Woman Under the Influence (1974), John Cassavetes offers a devastating look into the suffocating gendered politics of heterosexual family life, exposing how our cruel expectations of each other can lead to our undoing. The film follows a seemingly simple plot: The protagonist, Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands), appears to suffer from a series of mental breakdowns which prompts her family to commit her into a psychiatric institution.

Watching the film prompted me to ask the following questions: Were those really mental breakdowns, or merely a woman misunderstood by a largely patriarchal society quick to condemn women for resisting their expected roles of mother and wife? Of course, Cassavetes offers no definite answers, only multiple scenarios and therefore, many possible interpretations for Mabel’s behaviour. Here lies the film’s strength – its propensity for ambiguity. Even without watching the film, we know that the dominant narrative is that of the hysterical woman and the madwoman in the attic. In a society that is quick to label women as hysterical simply because they refuse to conform to masculine expectations, Cassavetes’ penchant for ambiguity is an act of resistance towards a singular patriarchal narrative that has heavily permeated much of society for decades. 

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Gena Rowlands in ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ (1974)

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Karlovy Vary 2018: Tradition is Fatal in Turkish Drama ‘Brothers’

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Tradition is meant to bind us together, but when those customs are based in violence, those binds can be a noose, choking us into a cycle of bloodshed. This is certainly the case in Turkish drama Brothers, which displays the devastating effects of living by ancient customs.

It starts with the seventeen-year-old Yusuf (Yiğit Ege Yazar) in a juvenile detention centre near the tail-end of his sentence. He is a quiet and brooding boy, with a constant chip on his shoulder. He seems always on the verge of anger, almost starting a fight over a mistimed football tackle. One day he is released on probation and picked up by his brother Ramazan (Caner Şahin), who believes a good way of celebrating is by buying him a prostitute. This pretty much sums up the perpetual misunderstanding between the two, who cannot find a way to truly relate to one another.

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