A Woman Under the Influence [Special Edition] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1974]

Arguably John Cassavetes' best directorial effort, highlighted by a brilliant and brave performance by Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under The Influence hasn't had a very distinguished history on DVD -- it was released on a no-frills pan-and-scan disc in 1999 and has since been available only as part of a box set of five Cassavetes' films from the Criterion Collection. But Criterion have now made their excellent transfer available in a stand-alone edition, and it lends the film the presentation and exposure it deserves. A Woman Under The Influence has been given a widescreen transfer for this release, letterboxed at 1.85:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors. The film's simple, naturalistic visual style is preserved with unobtrusive clarity on this disc, which features a spotless transfer that adds nothing unnecessary to the picture. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and recreates the slightly messy realism of the original track beautifully. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options included. The disc features an optional commentary track, in which Michael Farris (one of several cinematographers who worked on the picture) and Bo Harwood (who composed the score and recorded the production sound) discuss the practical and creative challenges of working with Cassavetes. Other bonus materials include a chat with stars Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, excerpts from an audio-only interview with Cassavetes recorded in 1975, a large gallery of production stills, the film's original theatrical trailer, and a twenty-six page booklet including an essay by Kent Jones and a 1975 interview with Cassavetes from the magazine Filmmakers Newsletter. It's hard to imagine A Woman Under The Influence being given a better and more caring presentation on home video than this, and Criterion are to be congratulated for making an important film available again in optimal quality.
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Overview

Special Features

  • 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
  • Audio interview with Cassavetes by film historian Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson, conducted in 1975
  • Trailer
  • Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
  • Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Kent Jones and an interview with cassavetes from 1975

Synopsis

A Woman Under the Influence
John Cassavetes' harrowing masterpiece charts the emotional meltdown of a suburban housewife and its effects on her blue-collar Italian family. Gena Rowlands stars as Mabel Longhetti, a mother of three whose husband Nick (Peter Falk) works as a construction worker; a mismatched couple like so many others in Cassavetes films, the Longhettis seem to be complete opposites: she's impetuous, extroverted, and fragile, while he's controlling, distant, and hard-bitten. Their differences underscore a series of domestic dramas, culminating in a nervous breakdown that sends Mabel to a psychiatric hospital for six months, only to return to a home environment on even thinner ice than before. The improvisational style central to Cassavetes' vision is at its most acute throughout A Woman Under the Influence. Like its title heroine, the film threatens to veer out of control at any time, its shape and scope defined not by narrative but by the emotional upheaval at its center. Embracing the full spectrum of the Longhettis' relationship, from seismic bursts of high drama to small, even trivial moments of domestic tedium, its long scenes relentlessly probe every nook and cranny of the family's life, drawing out each moment for maximum emotional impact; the film is by turns beautiful and ugly, illuminating and frustrating, and it features a performance by Rowlands as heartwrenching and unforgettable as any ever committed to celluloid. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Gena Rowlands
    Gena Rowlands - Mabel Longhetti
  • Peter Falk
    Peter Falk - Nick Longhetti
  • Matthew Laborteaux
    Matthew Laborteaux - Angelo Longhetti
  • Christina Grisanti
    Christina Grisanti - Maria Longhetti
  • Image coming soon
    Dominique Davalos - Dominique Jenson
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