jun’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ahhh Mr John Cassaevetes. I've heard so much. One of the unsung heroes of the 70's American New Wave, has certainly left an influence with A Woman Under The Influence. Cassavetes is known for making emotionally raw films, and believe the hype, not much even comes close to this in that regard.
Directors like Richard Linklater and Noah Baumbach owe an immense amount of service to Cassavetes. Cassavetes and Bergman were the first to truly master the power of dialogue. This film is fueled by seem less and beautifully natural dialogue. Alongside a juicy amount of nuance in their characters, the script gives the actors a lot to work with. I mean like holy shit Gena Rowlands reinvented acting with this performance.
I've said this a few time before, but whenever I see a film, I want to experience or learn something new about film and Cassavetes gave me both. I noticed that Cassavetes only uses very minute, simple, and subtle camera movements in A Woman Under The Influence. The camera basically only moves up down left right, but for about 60% of the film, the camera is stationary. Instead Cassavetes masterfully moves everything within the camera. The framing and staging of the camera and actors is absolutely brilliant. In many scenes Mable is framed in a way that makes her look isolated away from the group. And then we move on to the big argument scenes. Every single one of these scenes I was completely overwhelmed and I knew I'd break into a flood of tears any moment. Cassavetes subtlety switches to handheld and he consistently uses dirty shots. Dirty OTS, or dirty single, or dirty double shots that amplifies the frantic nature of it all to the max. On top of that, there is a consistent use of positioning the camera where another character would be. The camera often pans around to continuously remind us we are there too. We see and learn about every character all the way down to the kids. Many people can find child actors distracting, but I found these little lads to perfectly encapsulate the broken innocence. When their mother is breaking down we only get close ups of her face, but we can here the kids in the background whisper "Mom? I dont understand. Mommy what's the matter?"
When someone describes a film as an experience, this should be the prime example always. It traps us in the moment and refuses to let us go. It makes feel like we're one of the kids experiencing second hand pain. There are many many many long scenes in this film, but they aren't long takes. But the entire thing feels like a one shot film because Cassavetes doesnt leave any loose ends. He shows us everything and in between. Easily one of the greatest films ever in my eyes. It hollows out our hearts but lights a spark of hope with a perfect ending.