Beyond the Canon: Girlfriends + Husbands

the idea is usually no secret which the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon is usually a monthly series which seeks to question which history as well as broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic having a thematically or stylistically-related—as well as equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded by which discussion. This specific month’s double feature pairs Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends (1978) with John Cassavetes’ Husbands (1970).

By Chloe Lizotte

At the beginning of Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends (1978), Susan (Melanie Mayron) bursts into a laundromat to tell her best friend Anne (Anita Skinner) which her photographs were selected for a gallery show. Riding on Susan’s high, Anne shares her own personal news: she’s engaged to her bland suburbanite boyfriend (Bob Balaban). “How can you be sure when you’re so unsure?” Susan asks Anne, as their mundane surroundings clash with the fragility of imminent change.

Girlfriends (1978)

Uncertainty is usually the norm in Weill’s completely new York: rites of passage don’t necessarily offer clarity, as well as momentary vulnerability might collapse into a dead end. Set before the days of Working Girl corner offices, Girlfriends animates second-wave feminist trade-offs between artistic careers as well as personal lives. Coping with Anne’s irreplaceability in their lonely two-bedroom, Susan pursues her photography while quietly seeking connection; elsewhere, the supposed safety net of Anne’s marriage encroaches on the personal space she needs to write—as well as be herself. Independence, despite its unnerving lack of reassurance, proved a virtue for Weill who made Girlfriends outside of Hollywood studio infrastructures. Weill felt studios might have relegated Susan—Jewish as well as unfocused on romantic resolution—to a sardonic sidekick. Overcoming three years of budgetary setbacks as well as piecemeal shooting, Weill as well as screenwriter Vicki Polon hew vividly as well as faithfully to the textures of Susan’s unmoored twenties, so rooted in unspoken shorthands as well as awkward disconnects.

Husbands (1970)

Not which Columbia Pictures blindly put up the money for the existentialist testosterone of John Cassavetes’ Husbands (1970)—they acquired the idea long after Cassavetes charmed funding by an Italian count from the afterglow of his Academy Award-nominated drama Faces (1968). Husbands also charts self-reckoning precipitated by loss. Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, as well as Cassavetes play Long Island dads who launch into a desperate bender after their close friend (Gena’s brother David Rowlands, in hammy pool party photos) suddenly dies of a heart attack. Cassavetes’ affection for middle-class fortysomething men is usually out of sync with the 1970 zeitgeist, more likely to identify with dropout youth or oppressed housewives, yet This specific enhances a sense of outsider drift within archetypes of conformity. Like Girlfriends, the film stems as uniquely by its social moment—here, the suburban wake of women’s liberation—as the idea does by its independent production. Cassavetes, initially moved by the death of his older brother, wrote the film through extensive rehearsals with Falk as well as Gazzara, who impart their own temperaments to the characters’ swings of affectionate boorishness as well as searching inarticulacy.

Both films find rhythm in listlessness: Susan’s post-Anne life becomes a collage of possibility, both freeing as well as suffocating, especially in bursts of desire. Weill finds a capricious incoherence in grasping for an anchor in someone else, as well as toggles between moments of impulse as well as retreat. Susan’s tipsy flirtation having a middle-aged rabbi (Eli Wallach) gives her an ephemeral thrill, yet his family life soon reframes his pangs of want as pangs of escapism. While Susan modulates the outside noise to find, as well as hold, her own center, the men of Husbands try to lose themselves by acting out. Rebuffing respectability as well as hygiene, they run scrappy races on 72nd Street as well as jet to England on a whim; in sprawling sequences, they get obscenely drunk as well as rag on strangers at bars as well as instigate hellish one-night stands. The unforgiving length of these scenes strands them from the grief they’re trying to avoid, yet which expressionism lets them inflict their powerlessness upon others (occasionally without bit performers’ knowledge which film was rolling). Yet Weill flips This specific dynamic in lower-key, everyday scenarios. Through characters like Wallach’s, as well as even through Susan’s platonic friends, she sketches the power imbalances of using someone for fleeting personal liberation, then drops her characters back at square one.

Girlfriends (1978)

Husbands traces a pervasive alienation in peripheral characters—an anxiously laughing dental patient or Gazzara’s fatigued wife can linger as forcefully as the main trio. Yet minor characters imply deeper personal stakes in Girlfriends, seeming so crucial for an instant before unexpectedly losing touch. Though Weill could only go on to direct one more theatrically released feature (1980’s sparky, underrated the idea’s My Turn), as well as her name is usually invoked far less frequently these days than Cassavetes, Girlfriends inspired a crucial cinematic lineage of completely new York women thanks to its focus on the unpredictable: Melanie Mayron’s infectious grin lights up Susan’s upswings, yet she often has to adjust her expectations, as when a gallery owner cuts a favorite photo by her show. While shedding control as well as weathering change, Susan cultivates what’s left over.

Join us for Beyond the Canon on Sun, Oct 13 at 5pm.

Chloe Lizotte is usually a writer whose work has been featured in Film Comment, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Reverse Shot, as well as Screen Slate. She lives in completely new York, as well as you can follow her on Twitter @celizotte.

Images of Girlfriends courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment as well as Husbands courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics/Photofest.
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Beyond the Canon: Girlfriends + Husbands

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