…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Gena Rowlands

Similar Images #2: The Loving Headlock


A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes; 1974)

The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick; 2011)


Mother: A Woman Under the Influence


There was a Q&A after a screening of John CassavetesA Woman Under the Influence with its star Gena Rowlands. I wanted to ask about Cassavetes’ Kubrick-esque methods towards directing or how this film might have been about their generation. Her character, Mabel Longhetti declares that she’s not a ‘stiff,’ mocking other housewives’ affectations. She balk later and tells her husband Nick (Peter Falk) that she can be anything he wants but he tells her that she’s fine the way she is. Their brashness rebels against past generations’ behavioural conventions as well as those people’s facades of white normality. Instead, I asked instead about whether she thinks Mabel’s insanity comes from society or within – like anyone, she said both.

ph. Criterion

The film is frustrating  because of how it portrays Mabel’s, like Pink Flamingos but with complex shot schemes. The camera blurs or closes up on characters during conversations with others who are off-camera. Cassavetes didn’t want to plop a camera down to capture a domestic drama through wide-shot long takes. Instead he cuts to different angles, skipping from one thread of a conversation to another, making sense in portraying the tempers firing off from different characters as well as their constantly changing allegiances for or against her.

Reading Jessica Winter’s book “A Rough Guide to American Independent Film,” I misconstrued her synopsis of the film and assumed genre conventions, thinking that Mabel being ‘committed’ is Nick’s fault. But her insanity surfaces first, causing his outbursts, making him unsympathetic. However, there’s some progressiveness or even misguided feminism in him – seeing her post-hospital self makes him want her earlier imbalances back. Maybe the double standard shows that we can dismiss Nick’s insanity as boorishness while her essential role in the family can’t make her expendable. That her insanity being separate from their idea of her while there’s no ideal Nick.

“Masks and Faces: The Films of John Cassavetes” continues until July 31st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tonight’s movie is Husbands at 6:30.


Bad Movie: Taking Lives


ph. Warner

Despite my moods, I have to consider that Ethan Hawke is a great Broadway actor. That Angelina Jolie has knocked it out of the park at least twice. The latter, my favourite performance of hers, is in black face – and yes, I just willed this sentence to existence. That the Patton Oswalt quasi-apology for bad movies exist. The first shot I’ve seen of Taking Lives and with Jolie’s super-dark hair I thought, wait, why is Salt already on TV? My sister is a big Angelina fan for some reason, and she’ll watch any movie of hers, despite being very well aware that it’s crap.

That Gena Rowlands, who plays Mrs. Asher, is awesome, touches anything she wants and ain’t scared. And she dies. After watching KST getting killed off in a movie, there should be a law against icing great actresses.

Olivier Martinez is also in this mess, because they’re using a Frenchman to convince America that this movie’s set in Quebec.

And Kiefer Sutherland, Canadian, in pictures.

Then Costa (Hawke) befriends a random guy and kills him.

Here’s how it ends. Context – Ileana (Jolie) and Costa has sex without the former knowing that the latter is a killer. He’s pretty gross about the sex too.There’s actually decent acting going on here, Jolie’s cry groaning and Hawke’s creepy soft talk surprisingly the right notes for the scene. But they can’t save this movie at all. Ileana gets fired, moves to some winter yokel town to be alone and bear a child, then whoa, Costa’s back! Yeah, assault that pregnant woman!

Stab her in the stomach!

She stabs him in the heart, and reveals that she’s not really pregnant. I’m not an ob-gyn, but she should be swimming in blood had he put his second or third hand on her. The violence, however, is shocking and ridiculous enough to fasten my willing suspension of disbelief.

And U2’s playing, convincing me that my father is wrong and my friends are right about U2.


If I was Gena Rowlands


ph. Orion

“I guess you don’t read the theatre section of the paper.”

Hit her, Marion (Gena Rowlands), hit her! There’s only the three of you in this block. However, unlike this classical period in his career, Woody Allen films have only been violent in the past six years and only twice within that time. Anyway, I’m criminally new to Gena Rowlands’ word. Someone give me a movie where she literally kicks ass. Gloria?

Also, I’d hesitate to do any physical harm to Claire. I love the actress playing her, Sandy Dennis, specifically because she can steal a scene from Natalie Wood. And Dennis actually looks better in 1988 than she did decades before that. I’m so bad in not knowing that Dennis did major work after Woolf.

I’m also reminding myself while watching bits of Another Woman that this is Woody Allen evoking American Ingmar Bergman. I’ll give Bergman’s right hand man Sven Nyqvist, this film’s cinematographer, in how empty New York looks, and I’ve never viewed that with suspicion until now. This won’t be the last time we’ll see New York so empty. And is that light bulb on top of that post or behind that window? Anyway, Bergman also influences Allen’s work here to the direction of subtlety and, well, passive-aggressive dialogue, secret emotions, distorted memory, women being unfair towards each other.

Let’s fast forward by four or five minutes, where we find out that adulthood is a series of broken friendships. Marion takes Claire and her husband to drinks in a dank pub with etched walls, Claire sulks and then tells her she’s an unconscious home-wrecker. Now we know why Claire utters that quote above. Imagine how hurt Marion feels by learning this. The way Claire gets destroyed makes it a dirty victory for Marion, but classy and newly introspective as she is, she does not take the trophy home. I can’t imagine anyone questioning her actions by this time.