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A Woman Under the Influence
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Region B
  • Exclusive interview with Peter Falk
  • A filmed interview with Elaine Kagan
  • Trailers

A Woman Under the Influence

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John Cassavetes
Starring: Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands
1974 | 147 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: September 17, 2012
Review Date: September 16, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Receiving its long-overdue Blu-ray world premiere, A Woman Under the Influence is arguably John Cassavetes most popular and influential film. Released in 1974 it stars Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands (Gloria, Faces) and the legendary Peter Falk (Columbo) as Mabel and Nick Longhetti, a blue-collar couple struggling to cope with her slide into mental illness.

A key work from a golden era of American independent filmmaking this masterpiece is as powerful and devastating today as it was when it was first released. The film received two Oscarģ nominations - Rowlands for Best Actress and Cassavetes for Best Director, losing out to Francis Ford Coppola for Godfather Pt II.


PICTURE

Continuing through the works of John Cassavetes, BFI next presents A Woman Under the Influence in the aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc with a new 1080p/24hz high-def transfer. Though the previous Cassavetes titles, Shadows and Faces, were region free, A Woman Under the Influence is unfortunately Region B locked and North American viewers will require a player that can play Region B content.

BFI delivers what has to be one of the most film-like transfers Iíve seen on the format and though I was expecting this transfer to be stunning it still managed to surprise me. Either due to shooting conditions or Cassaveteís style there are moments where the image can look soft or out-of-focus but typically the picture is sharp with clearly defined edges and sharp details. Despite a generally dreary colour scheme the colours still manage to pop, like reds, greens, and purples, flesh tones look natural, and black levels are quite good. The digital transfer also doesnít show any artifacts of any kind and it renders the filmís grain structure perfectly, even when it gets very heavy.

The print is in excellent shape as well. A few minor blemishes remain, like white specs of debris and a stray hair here and there, but as a whole, similar to Criterionís DVD release, thereís very little here.

I had high expectations to begin with but I think BFI still managed to stun me, delivering one of the most stunning transfers Iíve come across this year.

9/10

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AUDIO

Another pleasant surprise is the lossless PCM mono track we get here. Other than a few edgy places the track is clean with little distortion. Some music can sound flat but voices and sound effects present some noticeable range and sound about as natural as possible when the age of the materials is considered.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterionís edition actually came with a nice selection of special features, including a commentary, but unfortunately none of that has been carried over to this edition. The Blu-ray disc itself only features two theatrical trailers. The second disc, which is a DVD, presents the film in standard definition, the two trailers, and then two other features.

The first feature is a 15-minute interview with Peter Falk, who talks about first working with Cassavetes on Husbands and then his desire to work with him again on A Woman Under the Influence. He talks about how Cassavetes worked with actors, usually holding back as to not influence them too much (though if a scene wasnít working he would guide them) and then talks about the characters he and Gena Rowlands play in the film. The interview segment is from the same piece that was used for the Falk interview on the Shadows Blu-ray release and like that itís another fond recollection of working with the director.

The other supplement is a 19-minute interview with Cassavetesí former secretary Elaine Kagan (ďthere were no assistants thenĒ she jokes.) During the first half of the interview she recalls what it was like working for Cassavetes, going from studio to studio to pitch scripts and films, and she talks about working on a few films of his, primarily A Woman Under the Influence. She also talks a great deal about Rowlands and offers general anecdotes about that time period. It feels shortened down from a lengthier piece but itís another engaging addition.

Thatís unfortunately it but BFI of course include one of their stellar booklets that features an essay on the film by Tom Charity and a recollection on the making of the film by Al Ruban. Following these is the reprint of a lengthy interview between Judith McNally and John Cassavetes from an issue of Filmmakersí Newsletter from 1975. The booklet then concludes with a short biography on Cassavetes and then notes about the transfer and the supplements.

In all the material is good, but itís slim. Itís unfortunate that BFI wasnít able to get some of the material that appears on Criterionís DVD.

4/10

CLOSING

Thereís some good material here but the supplements are slim, and Criterionís older DVD edition tops it in this regard. But BFIís audio/video presentation is stellar, certainly exceeding my expectations and delivering one of the most film-like transfers Iíve seen recently. It comes with a very high recommendation




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