Nigel Andrews

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433

Shadows, Faces, Husbands: John Cassavetes' titles serve both to define and to impersonalise his films' subject area. The announced theme provides a broad orientation, but the audience is finally left to interpret the raw material—fragmented narrative, improvised dialogue and action, long sequences apparently incidental to the main characters—at will. Thus, Husbands … is both a 'universal' male's-eye-view of marital restlessness and a haphazard idiosyncratic 48 hours out of the lives of three fugitives from New York suburbia. The titles of Cassavetes' trilogy have become more tangible, as the focus shifts from the rootless youth of Shadows to the grounded suburbanites of Faces and Husbands….

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In Faces, Richard and Maria, having vainly sought alternatives to the marital impasse, ended up sitting on the stairs together, speechless and unloving. Belonging had become a kind of imprisonment. In Husbands, self-styled a comedy by Cassavetes, marriage is less of an impasse: Gus and Archie return home without regrets, albeit with the bribery of expensive presents, while Harry simply walks out on his wife. Male comradeship, that recurring American dream from Fenimore Cooper to Hemingway, is a revitalising interlude rather than a final escape route for the three.

Framed between a funeral and a return to suburbia, their 48 hours on the town becomes an attempt to extract life from a world that seems to be dying around them, choked by false or inhibited emotional response. The drunken sing-song in the bar seems at first too long a scene for its tenuous relevance, but in retrospect it is crucial. Where the forced solemnity of the funeral struck no responsive chord in Gus, Archie or Harry, the naïve sentimentality of 'Apple Blossom Time in Normandy' and...

(The entire section contains 433 words.)

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