A Woman under influence

John Cassavetes, USA, 1974


A group of men are preparing spaghetti: the comedians seem to ignore the camera completely, absorbed by their task: turning their back to pour the boiling pot content, catching dishes and cutlery, whilst Mabel rushes around, and is exhausted for nothing by her lady of the house role. Around the table, the film-maker’s attention goes on the mute exchange beginning between Mabel and her husband, Nick, separated by guests. Cassavetes alternates close-ups on Mabel whose face is animated by uncontrollable mimics, with wider shots where she appears in the background, across the table. In the forefront, actual meal moves begin: bread going around, serving wine… The steaming dishes, and the glasses being emptied hide part of Mabel’s face, creating an even more obvious offset that is being created. As the only one not to be eating, she sketches sharp moves, trying to catch her husband’s eye, asking questions that seem inappropriate. She tries relentlessly, through an exaggerated affection, to play a social role which no one wants to play a part in, animated by the unique and imperious desire to indulge. The tangible, physical and materialistic reality of the meal, which exists in a very prosaic way through chewing noises, cutlery and glasses clinking, hides as much as it reveals Mabel’s sudden incapacity to participate in the world. Through this daily scene, Cassevetes draws with subtlety the rise of a woman’s reality shifting slowly.