Husbands and Wives

by Spiros Gangas

Gabe (Allen) and Judy (Mia Farrow) are visited by their friends Jack (Sidney Pollack) and Sally (Judy Davies) who announce the break-up of their marriage. This has a profound effect on Judy who becomes more sceptical as to the success of her own marriage. Gabe on the other hand finds himself being attracted to his young student Rain (Juliette Lewis). In the meantime Jack and Sally have found new partners...

This is typical Allen territory, this time though more polished and more pragmatic as to the scope of its ambition. In fact it seems to be a return to his highly acclaimed Hannah And Her Sisters, which displayed delicately Allen's major virtues. Again we are confronted with couples in periods of crisis and the resolution once more is as orthodox as ever despite the fact that regarding the character of Gabe it is presented in an apparently ambivalent way (emotional cul-de-sac resolved by his relationship to his art). There must be indeed much of Allen's' own experience in this one since it runs parallel to similar events in his life. However it doesn't prove very useful since it throws us back to an Allanesque world we all seem to know fairly well by now. What we don't seem to know is Allen's reference to John Cassavetes in an opening and rather embarrassing sequence with erratic camera movement which perhaps aims at conveying the unstable situation between the couples. But Allen is not Cassavetes and such innovations seem to be out of context.

To Allen's credit the mood of the film fluctuates beautifully between the tragic and the comic and the commitment which characterizes his collaborators provides testimony to this fact. Apart from Allen himself and Farrow who don't deviate from the stereotypical characters we've been used to see them play, Pollack demonstrates impressively that he is a better actor than director but it is actually Judy Davies who overshadows everyone in the film, in what must be her best performance to date. Avoid comparison with Hannah And Her Sisters and you will be pleasantly surprised!

Copyright © Edinburgh University Film Society

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