On Location: The rain in London as featured in ‘Husbands’ (Dir. John Cassavetes, 1970)

Husbands

Gus (John Cassavetes) and Mary (Jenny Runacre) jump out of a black London cab and into the sanctuary of Henry’s Soup Kitchen, a non-descript café, Gus pausing momentarily to throw the fare through the cab window, desperate that the incessant rain doesn’t touch him. The pair have spent the night together, sharing a complicated, fleeting romance that sits at the heart of director Cassavetes’ second film which is back in select theatres from September 28th.

Three men confronting, head on, their own mortality following the passing of a dear friend flee to London as the film unravels a series of meditations on male grief and male bravado. We witness the men reveling in their arrogant masculinity and ignoring the mortal shock they have received, before ultimately admitting – or dismissing – that they can’t escape the emotional impact they have suffered.

As the long night at the centre of the film gives way to morning, it becomes apparent why Cassavetes may have had his characters flee to England’s capital, as the rain becomes a pivotal character. In every shot inside Henry’s, where Gus and Mary hole up, the infamous London rain falls, monotonously, metronomic. As Mary tries to shake life into Guy the rain falls loudly outside and as they struggle to communicate and converse – flailing desperately to make real the fleeting connection they shared – we sense the encroaching dampness.

There’s something about the rain in London that perfectly suits the melancholy that permeates this film. It’s unbearable and incessant. It’s a trial that forces people to make choices, decisions, about who they are and how they will survive. A soup kitchen is a place where lost souls go for edible sustenance and it’s telling that these two lost souls have come to a place titled thus, as they search for spiritual nourishment, the morning after.

Archie (Peter Falk), the second of the fleeing trio, and Julie (Noelle Kao), his companion from the night before, also find themselves out in the rain at this point. They decide to make a final stand together in the middle of it, drowning in submission. Julie has dragged him out into the downpour in search of a cab Archie knows is not going to come. She talks to herself, adding her tears to the rainfall as Archie frustratingly questions her:

‘Where are you going in the rain?’

The image of Archie, forlorn and broken in the middle of a London street, effectively questioning himself, being consumed by a baptismal grey downpour is as powerful as any in the film.

When Archie and Gus reconvene at their hotel, making a joint decision to return to America, they are soaked, literally to the skin. The rain has permeated every layer of their outer selves. Husbands, is an infuriating, stubborn and meandering film. In parts it is also profound, mesmerizing and painfully true. Never more so than when the London rain is present, submerging the characters, washing their facade away and forcing their truths to the surface.

About the author

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A writer of the screenplay, academic and critical kind living in Cornwall with his beloved dog Bailey and teaching film theory and practice at Falmouth University. On a cinematic journey sparked by Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets that has traversed a number of award-winning short films, the imminent completion of a professional doctorate in film education, the co-foundation and direction of Filmstock Film Festival (2000-2009) and a cornucopia of other filmic goodness.

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