Though "women's liberation" was never mentioned, John Cassavetes's timely dissection of a wife's coming undone wrenchingly revealed the insolvable contradictions of domesticity. With his signature "improvisational" yet scripted style, Cassavetes used hand-held long takes, close-ups, and zooms to mine the minute details of character and emotion evinced by his wife Gena Rowlands and his frequent collaborator Peter Falk as blue-collar couple Mabel and Nick, registering the complex effects of Mabel's claustrophobic existence on her "unusual" psyche. Concentrating on Mabel's protean moods, as well as on the reactions of her family and her husband, Cassavetes shies away from a pat diagnosis of madness, suggesting that the institution of marriage -- even to a husband who loves her -- is as responsible for Mabel's breakdown as her own inner turmoil. Several years in the making and funded by Falk and Cassavetes to insure creative autonomy, A Woman Under the Influence debuted to acclaim at the 1974 New York Film Festival, particularly for Rowlands's tour-de-force performance. Distributed by Cassavetes himself to avoid studio interference, it became a small-scale hit and earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Director; despite his reputation as a male-centered filmmaker, it remains Cassavetes' most successful film, both commercially and artistically.