Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970)
It’s been a while since I wanted to catch a John Cassavetes film and I choose Husbands first because it was one of the few I could put my hand on and second because it was starring the late Peter Falk that I miss a lot. Beforehand, I knew that it was going to be some sort of improvised acting without specific story lines.
The plot is about the loss of a friend in a group of four men that were friends since childhood and now in their adulthood they are having troubles dealing with their lost and their common lives. The many scenes of this film are long and make those moments like true moments. It is shot almost like if Cassavetes wanted to document the lives of men who have difficulties to handle the passage from boyhood to manhood. However, this “passage” isn’t a metamorphosis, it is more like the gain of maturity and the case of letting things go. For example, the passions you have while you are a teenager slowly fade away and those nights drinking and hanging with your friends are part of that “passage” to maturity and the evolution as men and adults. The average man will always have to struggle between his responsibilities and his envy to go back to his days of lust. Husbands demonstrates how these men with responsibilities are struggling to pass over their best friend’s death by trying to rememorized their time with him when they were partying and “free”. It resumes an old saying that goes like that: “Life sucks! You’re gonna love it!”.
In some way, this is a sad movie that feels true and also nostalgic because it is the mourning of a lost friend that starts it all. Husbands, is a study of the modern day man alienated by his work and the world of today. Even if sometimes the portrayals are overly exaggerated it’s the magic of the moment that counts when you are watching a Cassavetes’ picture. Moreover, it is the wonderful acting that does it all. The photography is pretty subtle and there is a certain restraint in the technique, its purpose: let the acting talk and carry the film. This is why the presence of Falk, Cassavetes, and Ben Gazzara is the center of Husbands and the major reason why this is a highly regarded picture.
This is a raw film that feels true and down to earth. It’s like watching something without a filter. Far from being a perfect film or a life changing picture, Husbands defines how men can be weak and how they’ll always have to face live and death.