Saturday, December 21, 2013

Husbands underground

TCM's weekly Underground slot in the wee hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, usually has cult films or horror films. This week sees something a little more unexpected as director John Cassavetes' Husbands shows up overnight at 3:30 AM.

The movie starts out intriguingly, with four suburban husbands at the beginning of middle age are shown in a series of stills doing the thing four such men who are also good friends do. All of that changes by the end of the opening sequence, however, as we cut to a funeral procession: one of the men has died tragically young. Unsurprisingly, this causes the other three guys (Cassavetes himself, Ben Gazzara, and Peter Falk) to enter the midlife crisis stage of their lives. Not wanting to face their fears of death, they go on the bender of all benders, staying out 24/7, doing guy things, and eventually jetting off to London at a time when transatlantic jet travel wasn't exactly cheap.

Unfortunately, I found it all to be not quite the type of movie for me. Something about the three guys' antics just grated on me, reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky's The Bachelor Party. I never fit in with the type of person presented here anyway, always being more of a homebody who would stay home watching old movies than going out clubbing. Both films are well made, but just unappealing to me.

Or perhaps John Cassavetes just isn't my sort of director. I don't know as much about his work as I probably should, really only having seen A Child is Waiting before Husbands. So for me, it's a bit interesting to read the reviews of a film like Husbands and see how many of the fans of his work compare it to other movies, with the suggestion that his work isn't quite in the mainstream. Perhaps that too might have something to do with the way I look at a film like Husbands. I think I've stated it before, but if there's one big problem I have with a lot of movies of this era in general, it's the impression many of them leave me as wanting to protest against the old system -- not just filmmaking under the Production Code, which was finally only scrapped a few years before Husbands; but the whole middle class suburban society that a movie like Divorce, American Style is commenting upon -- just for the sake of protest. In other words, I have to admit that my mindset leaves me a bit predisposed to take a more jaundiced look at filmmaking style of the era. Sure, there are movies from that era that I really enjoy, but there are going to be others that I probably ought to give a fairer shake to.

Husbands did get a DVD release, and I even distinctly recall that release getting significant mention on TCM in one of the "Hi, this is the TCM Classic Movie News report" monthly features. But that release seems to be out of print.

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