1 April 2010 | jzappa
A Cassavetes Film Even Experienced Cassavetes Film Watchers Aren't Quite Prepared For
The very first bit of dialogue is the kind of introductory exposition you get and gradually learn the rhythm of from a movie that is testing you. Being a film by John Cassavetes, it shall be one of those films that leaves you unsure of what to think of it at all, except that you were strangely engrossed in many scenes, only not quite like other examples of this sort of movie experience. His sense of pace is epic, but the subjects that fascinate him are granular in scale. Husbands is a Cassavetes film that even experienced Cassavetes film watchers aren't quite prepared for. It is a formalistically rebellious, gravely intimate reflection of the bareness of suburban life, magnified 500%, unpatronizing to and violatingly honest about its anxious, inarticulate sticks in the mud who have no idea what they're feeling while they're undergoing their feelings.
The dialogue is comprised of unfinished thoughts, of knee-jerk shouts, not to mention three actors with egos more massive than the movie's gaps of seeming inertia. The camera just rolls and the microphone just hears. That we're seeing and hearing anything in particular is not as central as the fact that we are indeed looking and listening.
Cassavetes tries so hard to seize and squeeze every possibility of any moments that catch what we all know happens between concept and execution. Moments that don't seem scriptable, that hardly seem describable. When we're with somebody but before anyone's thought of anything to say, or when we are distracted into an unthinking transition, anything impulsive or seemingly without thought. I might even go so far as to say the whole film seems involuntary. And what's more, it is predominantly comprised of Cassavetes' trademark scenes of agonizing discomfort.
The most emboldened stand-out in this film's succession of scenes of that nature is an inordinately long one in which Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk sit with a table of friends and family in a bar, not a tissue of their body left dry of alcohol, taking random turns singing traditional folk songs, and after awhile---and I mean awhile---one person begins singing, and the three jeer them into silence, then tell her to try again. They jeer her quiet again, and again and again and again until finally, after anyone in her position would still be cooperating, they praise her for finally getting it right. This to me represents what has to be the creative process for actors in a Cassavetes film, especially the Cassavetes film Husbands. There seems to be no frontal lobe left in any actor.
Husbands is described sometimes as a comedy. Well, I don't know if it's a comedy, but is a drama with sporadic moments of strange, seemingly incidental humor. There is an unusually brief scene where Gazzara visits his office and is greeted by an outlandishly goofy colleague. When the three friends are electrified with excitement about going to London, we cut to London, where it's dreary and pouring rain. There doesn't seem to be a way to pinpoint the nature of the movie's tone, or its structure at all. Like I said, it puts you to the test, and the test is to accept the film on its terms. If you do, you can be moved by the nature of its point of view and be open to the nature of your own reactions to it.