With “Husbands”, John Cassavetes painted the portrait of unhappy masculinity

With “Husbands”, John Cassavetes painted the portrait of unhappy masculinity


According to the anecdote, a first cut of Husbands leaned more towards comedy. Just after its screening, John Cassavetes (1929-1989) turned to Peter Falk to warn him: “Remember this version, because you will never see it again. » The filmmaker reportedly locked himself in the editing room for a year; upon release, his film had become as hard as stone.

The more we watch Husbands , the more we are, in fact, struck by its despair. It’s a film filled with dark energy, where the feeling of plunging into the heart of its author’s intimacy has rarely been so strong. It is that Cassavetes, of which it is the fifth film, put into it, as usual, his obsessions and the dramas that were going through his life at the time: while he was entering his forties, his brother, barely 30 years old, died suddenly. It is the meeting of these two events which will constitute the plot of Husbands , in which Cassavetes takes on board two professional actors who he likes, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk – they will not let go of each other.

After a credits sequence which shows a montage of vacation photos with friends, we find ourselves in the rain, in the middle of a funeral. Harry, Archie and Gus have lost their friend, and this tragedy will be the starting point for an escape from home. They will wander, drink a lot, fly to London, meet girls – these three fathers run away above all to see better, from afar, what their existence is like.

Improvised singing competition

It is also the form that escapes here, infinitely free, and which, from production to acting, continues to tear itself away from all formatting and all conformisms. We will find in Husbands almost the opposite of what we learn during the script: no real issues or adventures, barely any characters, and very long sequences, including one, completely improvised, where the three friends, drunk and surrounded by strangers, organize a singing competition.

The scene, which stretches over twenty minutes, is astonishing in its intensity: we see a filmmaker who tries to extract from his actors a moment of absolute truth and knows that he can only find it after immense exhaustion. collective. In all the sequences, Cassavetes – who appears there for the first time in one of his films – plays only himself, a man who cannot stand moments of falsity, who wants every moment, every conversation and every film to go directly strikes at the essential: marriage, death, sex.

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