The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 13-19

husbands - falk cassavetes gazzara

Husbands (1970)
Directed by John Cassavetes
In 1970, Cassavetes, Peter Falk, and Ben Gazzara appeared on Dick Cavett’s show to promote their starring roles in Husbands. The episode, more recently reported by The New Yorker, was the worst in Cavett’s history. The trio’s cockeyed, foot-smelling antics, throwing themselves on the floor, and purposeful ignorance toward Cavett’s interview forced the host to walk off stage, and left the audience in a feverish anxiety. This interview, or lack thereof, is the perfect introduction to Cassavetes’s film; the three real-life and onscreen friends are more than a bromance. They embrace each other lovingly and often; they can make one another roar with laughter with a mere glance.

The film focuses on the intense emotions at the center of these friendships in a linear, vérité style that could only stem from Cassavetes’s heightened awareness of the human condition. After a friend of theirs passes from a coronary, the three remaining married men, Harry (Ben Gazzara), Gus (Cassavetes), and Archie (Peter Falk) anaesthetize their grief with a four-day bender beginning in New York City, with a brief stint in Port Washington, Long Island, and culminating in an overpriced trip to London. The friends are forced to question their own mortality, terrorized at the idea of growing older and missing out on being professional athletes (Archie’s pipe dream) or gallivanting drunkenly with one another, constantly pursuing one more drink and avoiding the notion that it could be the last. Their families and wives are mentioned, specifically in the case of Harry—who gets into a knock-down-drag-out altercation with his wife and mother-in-law, but relays to his buddies that though she’s better at sex, he likes his friends more.
At the end of their transatlantic jaunt, the men traipse home with the inevitable responsibility to their jobs and families, not with a solution or answer to the meaning of their existence, but more devoted to their friendship and slightly less disillusioned in their existential angst. Samantha Vacca (April 19 at Tenant416)

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