Husbands (film)

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Husbands
Husbands poster.jpg
Directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Al Ruban
Written by John Cassavetes
Starring Ben Gazzara
Peter Falk
John Cassavetes
Jenny Runacre
Jenny Lee Wright
Noelle Kao
Cinematography Victor Kemper
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates December 8, 1970
Running time 138 min.
Country United States
Language English

Husbands is a 1970 film written and directed by John Cassavetes. This ensemble film, which describes three middle class men in the throes of a midlife crisis, stars Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and Cassavetes.

The film, in cinéma vérité style, was described by Time magazine as Cassavetes' finest work while condemned by other prominent critics.[1][2][3] One recent critic described it as a "devastatingly bleak view of the emptiness of suburban life."[4]

Plot summary[edit]

Gus, Harry, and Archie (Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk, respectively) are three husbands with families in suburban New York. All are professional men. As the film begins, they are shaken when their best friend Stuart suddenly dies of a heart attack.

They have difficulty coping with the death, and spend two days hanging out, playing basketball, sleeping in the subways, and drinking, including one lengthy scene at a bar in which they have an impromptu singing contest. Harry goes home, has a vicious argument with his wife, and decides to fly to London. The other two decide to go with him.

They check into an expensive hotel, dress in formal clothing, and meet three young women at a gambling casino. They go back to their rooms with the women. Gus pairs off with Mary Tynan (Jenny Runacre), Archie with Julie (Noelle Kao), a young Asian woman who seems not to speak English, and Harry with Pearl Billingham (Jenny Lee Wright). However, their efforts to hook up with these women are awkward and unsuccessful.

Gus and Archie decide to go back to New York, but Harry stays behind. As the film ends, Gus and Archie express concern about Harry and what he will do without them.

Cast notes[edit]

Cassavetes wrote the dialogue after improvising with Falk and Gazzara, and built the characters around the personalities of the actors.[5]

Falk and Gazzara appeared in subsequent Cassavetes films, with Gazzara appearing in Opening Night (1977) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), and Falk appearing in A Woman Under the Influence (1974).

In his 2006 memoir, Just One More Thing, Falk said that he was asked by Cassavetes to appear in Husbands at a lunch meeting at which Cassavetes agreed to appear with Falk in the Elaine May film Mikey and Nicky.[6]

Falk said that he and Gazzara contributed to the Husbands script, but that the story, structure and scenes were devised by Cassavetes. Falk suggested the scene at the end of the movie where Archie and Gus arrive home and divide up the gifts. A scene between Archie and Julie was improvised in a hotel room, with Cassavetes at the camera and no other crew present.[6]

Production notes[edit]

Cassavetes needed to cut an hour and a half from the film in order to shorten it to its contractual requirement of 140 minutes. Columbia cut another eleven minutes in response to negative reviews, which was restored upon DVD release in August 2009. The 85 minutes that were cut have never been found.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received dramatically disparate receptions, with some prominent critics loving the film and others hating it. Life magazine put Cassavetes and the two other Husbands stars on its cover, and Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel put the film on his list of top ten films of the year.[7]

Critic Jay Cocks said in Time magazine that "Husbands may be one of the best movies anyone will ever see. It is certainly the best movie anyone will ever live through." He described it as an important and great film, and as Cassavetes' finest work.[1] Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert said that "seldom has Time given a better review to a worse movie."[8]

New Yorker critic Pauline Kael described Husbands as "infantile and offensive."[2]

Writing in The New York Times, Vincent Canby said the film, like Faces, which was "rambling and funny and accurate, and which I admired, the new film demonstrates a concern for panicky, inarticulate squares that is so unpatronizing that it comes close to being reverential in a solemnly religious sense." But Canby said the film was "unbearably long," and said, "It's as if someone decided to photograph a tug-of-war and photographed only the rope between the contestants." He said of the three characters that "when it's all over, they are tired, but not much wiser—which is pretty much the sum and substance of Husbands."[3]

Ebert's review said that Husbands "is disappointing in the way Antonioni's Zabriskie Point was. It shows an important director not merely failing, but not even understanding why." Ebert found the actors' improvisations unsuccessful: "There are long passages of dialogue in which the actors seem to be trying to think of something to say."[8] A Cleveland Press critic said that "the dialog consists of fragments, of exclamations, of three actors trying to upstage each other. What has been done is undisciplined and what has been given us is unselective. The camera runs and simply photographs everything that passes before it. The microphone listens. It is like a big budget home movie."[9]

Reviewing a DVD release of the film in August 2009, Richard Brody of the New Yorker said that "this formally radical, deeply personal work still packs plenty of surprises."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cocks, Jay (2007-12-07). "Never Less Than Human". Time magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  2. ^ a b Kouvaros, George (2004). Where does it happen?: John Cassavetes and cinema at the breaking point. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-8166-4331-8. 
  3. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (Dec 9, 1970). "Film: Very Middle-Class Friendship:Cassavetes, Falk and Gazzara in 'Husbands'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  4. ^ "Husbands Review". Time Out Film Guide. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  5. ^ a b c Brody, Richard (2009-08-10). "Mad Men, Sad Men". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  6. ^ a b Falk, Peter (2006). Just One More Thing. Carroll & Graf Publishers. pp. 185–192. 
  7. ^ "Gene Siskel's Top Ten Lists". Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  8. ^ a b Ebert, Roger. "Husbands". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  9. ^ Mastroianni, Tony (February 12, 1971). "John doesn't practice husbandry". Cleveland Press. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 

External links[edit]