best film:  A Woman Under the Influence is John Cassavetes’ best work and clearly Gena Rowlands’ best film. Faces comes in second and was part of the beginning of the Cassavetes one-man (for a time) American independent art film movement (of course Shadows from Cassavetes comes first in 1959 but it was not until Faces where he started to get some momentum for his movement as an auteur). A Woman Under the Influence is a difficult film- but a masterpiece worthy of the challenge.



A Woman Under the Influence is a character study marital drama epic- and Rowlands levitates for the entire 155-minute running time



best performance:     A Woman Under the Influence is far and away her best performance. She has enough of a resume here with her other five (5) archiveable films with Cassavetes alone not make her a one-hit wonder (and even give her slightly more of a career-long, un top-heavy balance than say Emily Watson) but still, Rowlands is not on this list without her work in the 1974 masterpiece. She plays Mabel Longhetti, Peter Falk’s character’s alcoholic wife. Rowlands is simply a tour-de-force- it is a show-stopping feast of a role and performance- one of the best acting performances ever captured on celluloid.



Rowlands in 1968’s Faces. Rowlands spent the better part of the 1950s and 1960s in television work before she and Cassavetes sort of led an important independent film movement.



stylistic innovations/traits:   Rowlands is best known for playing an eccentric, but really had pretty strong balance and range in her resume- she could do it all. Her work in A Woman Under the Influence is not that closely connected to her work in Gloria or Another Woman as an example in terms of character traits and tics. Mabel Longhetti is a whirlwind- mad, authentic, perplexing.



Rowlands in Opening Night- one of the six archiveable films she made with husband John Cassavetes



directors worked with:  John Cassavetes (6). Cassavetes was Rowlands’ husband. She was his muse and he her director and they were married from 1954 to his death in 1989.  Rowlands’ top five performances are all in Cassavetes’ films. She also worked with Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch, and Terence Davies once a piece- but sadly this was, in each case, in one of these brilliant director’s weaker efforts. This was not the fault of Rowlands- just bad luck- but certainly luck is a factor on lists like this.



top five performances:

  1. A Woman Under the Influence
  2. Faces
  3. Opening Night
  4. Gloria
  5. Minnie and Moskowitz



archiveable films

1962- Lonely Are the Brave
1968- Faces
1971- Minnie and Moskowitz
1974- A Woman Under the Influence
1977- Opening Night
1980- Gloria
1984- Love Streams
1988- Another Woman
1991- Night on Earth
1995- The Neon Bible