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Review: 'Husbands' Astounds, Frustrates, and Fascinates

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 26, 2020
Review: 'Husbands' Astounds, Frustrates, and Fascinates

John Cassavetes' "Husbands" is an uncomfortable watch, to say the least. At nearly 2½ hours, the film covers plenty of ground in its scathing portrait of American masculinity at its most fragile.

Following the death of their close mutual friend, three middle-aged men (played by Cassavetes, Peter Falk, and Ben Gazzara) embark on a multi-day, alcohol-fueled bender that eventually takes them from Manhattan to London.

What are we meant to find in the debauchery that ensues? How are we supposed to feel during a gruelingly long scene of the men drunkenly harassing a young woman in the bar? The film is described as "a comedy about life, death, and freedom" in its opening title card, but is it really that funny in the end?

"Husbands" is quite sad, and aggravatingly so. The characters are so ugly and flawed that it's hard to find compassion for them as they channel their grief into desperate immorality. But they're still just so, so captivating to watch in their unpleasantness. It all leads to a final scene that truly sticks in its raw, uncompromising critique of everything that's come before, and, in the end, "Husbands" becomes an astounding work that frustrates and fascinates in equal doses.

In its new 4K digital restoration by The Criterion Collection, "Husbands" looks and sounds fantastic (though, the authenticity of the sounds can be quite exhausting, as the men talk over one another, scream, hack out a lung, and even vomit relentlessly). Bonus features include:

• Audio commentary from 2009 featuring critic Marshall Fine
• New interviews with producer Al Ruban and actor Jenny Runacre
• New video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim featuring audio recordings of actor-director John Cassavetes discussing his approach to working with actors
• "The Story of 'Husbands' - A Tribute to John Cassavetes" (2009), a half-hour program featuring Ruban, actor Ben Gazzara, and cinematographer Victor J. Kemper
• Episode of "The Dick Cavett Show" from 1970 featuring Cassavetes, Gazzara, and actor Peter Falk


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