Husbands by John Cassavetes

Peter Falk was drafted in to help write and star in the movie Husbands (1970) which he says was ahead of its time.

The critics call it a movie about middle aged men confronting their mortality. John Cassavetes, the director and writer, says “Think of it this way: When you’re an old guy, you can tell your grandkids about the time you and your buddies on impulse hopped a plane to London, spent three days drinking, gambling, picking up women, then came home to wife and kids.”

He makes it sound simple and in effect it is because that is what they do except one of them doesn’t come home and all of them push the boundaries of what it is to be male in a civilised society. On the way back from the funeral of the fourth in their group of friends, the three men go out drinking and seem to slowly unravel what it means to be husbands.

They go drinking, flirt with women, become aggressive, play basketball and jet off to London. In the meantime we get to see them drop their facades, if that’s what they are, as they drunkenly talk about feelings, experiences and let random thoughts come out.

The camera work is intimate and peculiar. The scenes last a little too long. Cassavetes’ style aimed to promote spontaneity and the improvisation makes some of it seem quite real.

One of the first drunken scenes is when the three men, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara and Cassavetes are in an Irish bar and initiate a singing contest. What starts off as fun turns uncomfortable as they pressure one woman to sing over and over again, at times insulting her, kissing her and also singing over her.

There are indications that the friendship of the three men stands outside what their normal roles are supposed to be with one of them telling the other that he’s not the first to beat a woman.

The camera work is intimate. When Falk spends time in a bathroom stall throwing up, Cassavetes is sitting on the floor and is shown in the bottom left hand of the screen for what seems like a long time.

The Cube showed Husbands this week in what seems now like a timely screening as Peter Falk died on June 24, 2011. 41 years have passed but the movie still comes across as an important exploration of what men, or people, leave behind when they conform to one role more than any others.

Quotation from Peter Falk’s book Just One More Thing

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