When you have a lot of friends who work in film you’ll inevitably be asked, “what’s your favorite movie”. I’ll answer honestly that its John Cassavetes’ film Husbands (1970). Typically, my friends have no idea what film that is, and the ones who do call it a chauvinistic and sexist film. But I don’t think that is true at all.
The film is about three men, (played by Cassavetes, Peter Falk & Ben Gazarra) during the forty-eight hours immediately after the funeral of their best friend. During those forty-eight hours depicted in the film the three men behave badly and yes, with a degree of chauvinism. But that isn’t what the film is about. The chauvinism is a character-trait; to remove it would enable plasticity in the performances. Chauvinism is simply a mechanic of the daily interaction of these characters, and they can’t neglect to take it with them through the narrative, it wouldn’t make filmic sense. What the film is really about is the strain death has put on the mechanics of the interactions between these three friends and how they cope with that strain.
Husbands, like much of Cassavetes’ work, emphasizes the performers role in narrative construction, often over the technical aspects of filmic story telling. It’s an approach I personally prefer, but is for the most part neglected in the dialogue between contemporary filmmakers and their audience. So it may be reasonable to assume that audiences watching a John Cassavetes film today would have difficulty immersing themselves in the film without some critical assistance.
All of that is beside the point. My only intention was to defend my favorite film from allegations of chauvinism and maybe be a little instructive on how to access the film.
(For further insights on how to read Husbands with a critical eye, check out American Dreaming by Ray Carney).