Husbands: From the Heart!!

by Tony Nigro

Genius!  Misogynist!
Messiah!  Alcoholic!
— Le Tigre, “What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes?”

Following the success of Faces, Husbands expands what the previous film started, a cinema of The Moment, an emotional Now that seeks truth less through Aristotelian drama and more through the messiness that makes up both real life and filmmaking, which for John Cassavetes seemed inseparable.  The result is a film that, like Faces, demands to be watched differently.  If the experience is at times frustrating — and it often is — that is the point, for the viewer to share the characters’ frustration as well as their joy and all the peaks and valleys in between.

In a way, Husbands puts the put-on of Mad Men in its place.  All the smoking, the drinking, the bullishness — it’s all real, albeit magnified through the manic lens of Cassavetes.  Not to denigrate Mad Men, which is an amazing series, but the misogyny in Husbands is never made safe by a slick retrospective wink.  It’s simply men acting out because of despair and lack of any other outlets — not because “that’s how things were back then.”  When a woman is treated poorly in Husbands, it’s a reflection of the character’s flaws, the man’s emotional state, and not history.  The film is unapologetic, but that’s an attitude that Cassavetes carried throughout his career, be it as a director, a writer, an actor and, by many accounts, as a man.

Husbands debuts in the U.S. on DVD with eleven minutes of restored footage.  Does that mean it’s new and improved?  Not really.  The definition of “improved” in the cinema of Cassavetes is never without its exceptions.  Life just isn’t that neat.

Related viewing:
John Cassavetes, Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara on The Dick Cavett Show

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