Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Woman Under The Infuence

I started Cassavetes' A Woman Under The Influence last night, continuing my look at Cassavetes to test the theory that, more than any other American director, he's about people up against the limits of their existence and unable to break out. I had to turn it off. I only got as far as Gena Rowlands, coming back to her house with a man she picked up in a bar.

There is something almost unbearably edgy about the young Rowlands for me. Like somebody jammed a 220v wire into her brain. It takes her about two minutes to convince me she's the most fragile woman I'll ever meet. Right now, I don't want to know what happens to her. I don't want to know what Cassavetes is about to do.

I knew a woman who lived on the edge, in and out of wards. Overdoses. Slashed wrists. The last time I talked to her was the night she called and said: "I did it again."

I hung up the phone, took a long shower, got dressed, fixed a sandwich and watched a little TV. Then I called 911.

7 comments:

GirlfromtheBronx said...

A quickie before I leave for the day.

I saw that movie for this first time in the late 80's. DIdn't even know it existed. One of the most truly disturbing films I've ever seen. I tend to internalize the struggles portrayed in a film even when it's poorly executed. My husband is always amazed that I could be so "manipulated." But when the film is bad, it's not that I'm not aware of being manipulated, it's that I'm still touched by the sadness of anyone who's ever experienced the particular issue. When the film is really well done, I take it pretty hard.

I suppose when talking about films about relationships, I think immediately of Bergman. But I imagine, for some reason that you wouldn't be as drawn to him.

It's been a while since I've taken in a Bergman film. I have no idea if his style wears well. In performing, you never want your audience to be aware of your technique, no matter how good it is. Even though I was such a fan at the time, I think I might look at some of his work differently today because his style is so upfront. Not sure.

Too bad about your friend. That's the problem with damaged people, they don't have the capacity to recognize honesty, love, compassion or truth.

Billy Glad said...

I've seen everything Bergman did, I think. Persona gave me so many permissions I can't begin to enumerate them. Bergman is so deep in my memory that I have to think about most of my images to make sure I didn't take them from Bergman. The IFC channel here runs a lot Bergman films. I record them and watch them late at night. The Virgin Spring, The Silence and Wild Strawberries were on last week. Along with Persona, Cries and Whispers, Hour of the Wolf, and Through A Glass Darkly are a few that have been important to me.

I wonder if letting someone die under those circumstances deserves to be called compassionate.

My sister, a hard Texas woman who could have been the model for the mother in Tender Mercies, once told someone who had just wondered if she didn't wish he would die: "No. I want you to live out every wretched moment of your miserable life."

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Oh, good. Maybe I thought I was talking to LiveWIre or Julian.

As to your question, not knowing all the circumstances, I couldn't say. But if not compassionate, perhaps just being human. When I got the phone call that my father had had a heart attack in 1981, I spent the entire taxi ride from Manhattan to the Bronx hoping he'd be dead when I got there. And he was. In the annals of extreme love/hate relationships, this one had to be top 10. I ended up having a a lot of "unfinished business" to take care of after his death. Took me over a year to finish. But in the end... just human.

Billy Glad said...

Yeah. I just wanted out from under. Whatever else she was, she was smart enough to recognize fed up when she saw it, and she steered clear of me after that. Funny thing is, she's still alive and living in Galveston. We get our barbeque from the same hole in the wall joint.

Decidere said...

Suicide is Blameless.

Billy Glad said...

The interesting thing about Bergman is the way he restrains the medium. He knows when to let you use your imagination. If you think of Persona and the encounter with the boys. Bergman narrates that so that you can make of it anything you want. A mediocre film maker -- or writer for that matter -- might follow the trite advice to "show it instead of telling it." Bergman knows better. So a scene that might have been limited by Bergman's ability to render it, explodes in your imagination.

Billy Glad said...

Here's a transcript of the Bergman scene. There are a couple of lines I remember differently, but this is close enough.

One day Karl-Henrik had gone into town. I went to the beach on my own. It was a warm and nice day. There was another girl there. She had come from another island because our beach was sunnier and more secluded.

We lay there completely naked and sunbathed...dozing off and on, putting sunscreen on. We had silly straw hats on. Mine had a blue ribbon. I lay there... Looking out at the landscape, at the sea and the sun. It was kind of funny.

Suddenly I saw two figures
on the rocks above us. They hid
and peeped out occasionally.

"Two boys are looking at us,"
I said to the girl. Her name was Katarina.

"Let them look," she said,
and turned over on her back. I had a funny feeling. I wanted to jump up and put my suit on,but I just lay there on my stomach with my bottom in the air, unembarrassed, totally calm. And Katarina was next to me with her breasts and big thighs. She was just giggling. I noticed that the boys
were coming closer. They just stood there looking at us.

I noticed they were very young.

The boldest one approached us...and squatted down next to Katarina. I felt very strange.

Suddenly Katarina said to him, "Hey, you, why don't you
come over here?" Then she took his hand and helped him take off his jeans and shirt.

Suddenly he was on top of her. She guided him in and held his butt. The other boy just sat and watched. I heard Katarina whisper
in the boy's ear and laugh. His face was right next to mine. It was red and swollen.

Suddenly I turned and said, "Won't you come to me, too?" And Katarina said, "Yes, go to her now."

He pulled out of her and then fell on top of me, hard. He grabbed my breast. It hurt so much! It was over for me at once. Can you believe it? I wanted to tell him to be careful not to make me pregnant...when he came ... I felt something I'd never felt in my life...how his sperm was shooting inside me. He held my shoulders
and bent backwards. I came over and over. Katarina lay there watching and held him from behind. And after he came, she took him in her arms and used his hand to make herself come, finishing with a sharp cry.

The three of us started laughing. We called to the other boy, who was sitting on the slope. His name was Peter. He seemed confused and was shivering there in the sunshine. Katarina unbuttoned his pants and started to play with him. And And when he came,
she took him in her mouth. He bent down and and kissed her back. She turned around,
took his head in both hands, and gave him and gave him her breast.

The other boy got so excited
that he and I started all over again. It was just as nice as before.

Then we had a swim and went our separate ways.

When I came home, Karl-Henrik
was already back from town. We had dinner and some red wine.

Editor's Note: Rioja, of course.