This film looks beautiful in an understated way, being shot almost entirely in a narrow range of beige tones, but with good contrast on the faces which brings out their aesthetic qualities a bit like a de la Tour painting. The focus on this is enhanced by the fact that we never see through a window, the whole film being shot in a studio in New York whereas the house is meant to be in Vermont. The exquisiteness of the lighting is complemented by the beautiful, poignant score and the beautifully-shaped screenplay which unleashes a far greater storm of emotion than appears on the surface for most of its running time. This restraint makes it all the more moving, with Mia Farrow bringing a heartfelt vulnerability to the central role, marvellously offset by the brusquely gung-ho manner of the mother, perfectly projected by Elaine Stritch. It clearly owes a lot to Bergman's Autumn Sonata, but expands the focus onto more characters and is more soft-hued in every sense, but no less moving for that. It also manages to broaden the tone to comedy as well through Elaine Stritch's character without undermining the piece's undercurrent of plangent melancholy, albeit transformed through art itself.
on 23 February 2005
September (Woody Allen, 1987)
Between his serio-comic reminiscence RADIO DAYS and the searing adult drama ANOTHER WOMAN, Woody Allen made September, a reflective, introspective chamber-piece on his favourite themes of childhood, adultery, love and loss. One imagines that the chilly critical and public response will shift to one of admiration and wonder as the years shift, such is the haunting power of this masterpiece.
Mia Farrow plays Lane, an unsuccessful photographer recovering from a breakdown in her autumnal apartment, the golds and rusts of the season chiming with the forlorn tone of the story. She falls in love with a visiting writer (Waterston), who appears to be drifting away from her, since he is besotted with Lane's sister Stephanie (Wiest). Barely taking an interest is the sisters' self-absorbed mother (Stritch) and her insecure third husband (Warden). Denholm Elliot rounds out the principal case as a kind family friend, his love for Lane unspoken.
There are many great moments in this complex, brilliant film, but two in particular remain long in the mind. First is the "love scene" between Waterston and Wiest. Wiest says- torn- that to begin an affair would be "impossible" and exits. Then, slowly, she turns and walks back into the room, shutting the door. Wiest has never been better than in this film, than in this moment. A startling, beautifully realised epiphany, boiled down to a look, a bow and a smile. The second great sequence comes with the shattering denouement, which I shan't spoil for you here. Allegedly based on the Johnny Stompanato murder case, it's a considerable jolt.
Allen's straight dramas certainly aren't for all tastes, but for those who can take them the rewards are vast. There has never been a screenwriter with a better ear for dialogue and in his "serious" films, Allen creates fascinating, utterly believable characters. The performances are pitch-perfect throughout, with Wiest, Farrow and Stritch all on career-best form. As always Allen's use of lighting and music is spot-on; here he showcases Art Tatum and Bernie Leighton, providing an evocative soundtrack to an unforgettable film.
Simply brilliant. 4 out of 4.
on 2 May 2015
Well made movie that is more like a theatre play than a film. It's about four people in unfulfilled relationships, and an older couple who have maybe learned to get on despite ups and downs in theirs.
Diane Weist and Mia Farrow are great as usual, and it's nice to see Denholm Elliott in this as well. Sam Waterson plays a struggling writer and is the fourth spurned lover. Elaine Stritch is perfect as the larger than life mother with a racy past.
It's shot well in muted Bergmanesque tones, and the jazz music is good to listen to.
on 1 April 2013
Wonderful absolutely amazing in every way and beginning to the end totally involved. One of Woody Allen's best as there are so many but this is one for the collection a must have for any fan of his films.
on 2 March 2006
September seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it work within the Allen filmography, one that seems synonymous with that period in the late 80's when he was trying to take on weightier issues that drew stylistically on the films of Ingmar Bergman (see Another Woman, Husbands and Wives, Crimes and Misdemeanours and elements of Hannah and Her Sisters for more), and one that has the famous back-story of Allen shooting the film once, assembling a rough-cut, deciding he hated it, re-writing the script, re-casting the film and eventually re-shooting the same story on a soundstage in upstate New York. His intention... to create an isolated and claustrophobic atmosphere in which he could develop a modern-day chamber-piece that would stand more as a filmed play as opposed to a major motion picture!! Still, it showed that he was taking risks rather than playing it safe, something that he would end up doing during the latter half of the 90's and the first half of the new millennium.
The basic story of the film concerns six main protagonists who are gathered together at an idyllic summer house in Vermont. The house belongs to Lane (Farrow), who is recuperating from a nervous breakdown, a failed relationship and years of guilt and speculation involving the murder of her abusive step-father. Amongst the group is Peter (Sam Waterston), a struggling writer who is lodging with Lane and who Lane has a crush on. Peter however, is in love with Lane's friend Stephanie (Diane Wiest), who is staying at the summer house to escape the tedium of her husband while her children are away at camp. Stephanie seems close to Howard (Denholm Eliot) who has hidden feelings from Lane, whilst between the four of them there is Lane's vibrant and gregarious mother Diane (Elaine Stritch) and her new lover Lloyd (Jack Warden). The set-up seems ripe for the kind of comedic misunderstandings usually found in the greatest of French farce (or even Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night!!), but instead, Allen uses the notion of couples "in love with someone, in love with someone else" to mine deeper questions involving the need for love, understanding and acceptance in the face of loneliness and isolation.
Throughout the film we never stray from the stifling claustrophobia of the summer house, with Allen carefully cutting backwards and forwards between the main characters and their escalating interactions that can only lead to a scene of devastating emotional fall out!! As a result, September is a purposely stagy film that relies heavily on scenes of dialog punctuated by moments of piercing silence. If this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then the film most certainly isn't for you, with Allen and long-term cinematographer Carlo Di Palma shooting much of the film in long, unbroken takes, with very few close-ups (the obvious exception being the closing scenes of dysfunction), and generally allowing scenes to play out in semi-darkened rooms lit by candle-light or very low sepia bulbs. The feeling that this creates is one of mystery and desperation, offering many secluded areas for the group to break away and take solace in their secrets, whilst also going to some lengths to visualise the deep-seated animosity that lies at the heart of the film's central characters.
The film could easily be seen as the middle-part of Allen's dramatic trilogy, which began with the very bleak Interiors in 1978 and climaxed with the very bleak but wholly more interesting Another Woman from 1987. On the whole, September is a more enjoyable film than Interiors (if it is possible to enjoy such a bleak and miserable film), though for me lacked the depth of further interpretation that was so central to Another Woman. The story can at times be a little slow, despite the film clocking in at just under an hour and twenty-minutes, but it is worth sticking with as far as I'm concerned, particularly for the great performances and that jaw-dropping moment towards the end of the film, in which the root of Lane's problems and the deep-seated animosity towards her mother is finally revealed.
The performances are fine throughout, though it is Farrow (in possibly her best performance ever... alongside The Purple Rose of Cairo) and Wiest who really stand out as something spectacular. It's a film that I particularly enjoy (though I'm someone who can overlook the flaws in Shadows and Fog and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion to see the great work lurking beneath), and I feel it shows Allen's deft understanding of character, atmosphere, design and direction in pulling off such a dour and depressing piece of work. Although it could be argued that the subsequent Crimes and Misdemeanours and Husbands and Wives were also fairly dark and dramatic films, they were undercut by Allen's verbal wit and enough moments of lighter comedy. Interiors, September and Another Woman are films without laughs and devoid of the usual Allen wit... with the director instead choosing to ask deeper questions about life, love and loneliness. The characters here are forced to dig through the secrets of the past (and the present), whilst at the same time, staring life full in the face, in order to get to the root of their various problems and complications, but ultimately find a (slim) glimmer of hope drifting far on the horizon.
As with 90% of Allen's work, September is a perfectly made film with an interesting story, strong characters and an impeccable design. Though it perhaps tries too hard to develop its overtly serious tone, it should be commended for trying to do something stylistically different, whilst simultaneously offering us a film for adults about adults, that isn't afraid to present the darker aspects of life. It may fall somewhat outside the top-ten of Allen-related masterworks, but regardless, it is well made, impeccably acted and occasionally quite moving, and deserves to find an audience that is willing to invest some time in it.
Woody Allan's Ingmar Bergman inspired story of unfulfilled longings was a radical departure from his other work when it first appeared over 25 years ago. Now, many years later, it can be assessed as an admittedly "theatrical", but none the less highly impressive miniature masterwork. Exceptional performances from an ensemble cast of true professionals, coupled with a wonderful score of "found" music and blessed with a brilliant cinematographer - all result in an engaging and perceptive portrait of people in crisis that is insightful, elegant and fascinating. The laughs are very few indeed but the ironies many. At around 80 minutes this short film may not appeal to everyone and definitely errs on the side of theatrical artifice - one can imagine it produce on stage quite easily - but my goodness it is well structured and directed. The dvd transfer is very fine and the late summer early autumnal light is brilliantly captured. All in all I found it quite wonderful but I know that it's slowly developing narrative and distanced approach will not appeal to everyone.
Woody Allen's Bergmanesque study of human relationships, his 1987 film September, is, even at its relatively short duration of 79 minutes, at times, quite hard going. Despite many creditworthy acting performances, for me, the film drags, particularly during the middle third, and it is only towards the end that, due to the late plot twists and accompanying dramatic scenes, the film is just about lifted into four star territory.
Set in the leafy surrounds of Vermont, but not leaving the confines of a single house setting, Allen's film is an at times claustrophobic study of the lives, loves, frustrations, etc, of six main characters. These comprise best friends Lane (Mia Farrow) - who is recuperating at the house from a failed suicide attempt - and Stephanie (Dianne Wiest), Lane's mother Diane (Elaine Stritch) and stepfather Lloyd (Jack Warden), and Lane/Stephanie's romantic acquaintances, budding writer Peter (Sam Waterson) and teacher Howard (Denholm Elliot). For me, the film sits somewhere between Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party (but much less scathingly funny) and a film like Joanna Hogg's Archipelago (but with Allen's film containing slightly more dramatic developments!).
Don't get me wrong, September certainly has its plus points. Chief among them is the film-stealing acting performance delivered by Elaine Stritch. In her depiction of the outwardly blustering and self-confident, but also self-doubting, Diane, she is very impressive. Also outstanding are Jack Warden, providing yet another brilliant screen turn as the cowering husband Lloyd , and great British stalwart Denholm Elliot playing the rebuffed, elder paramour, Howard. Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest are also reliably solid in their parts, but, for me, were much more impressive, in the similar, but meatier, roles that Allen cast them in for the superior Hannah And Her Sisters.
This highlights the main shortcoming of the film for me. Namely, September again explores many of Allen's trademark preoccupations, including guilt, ageing, jealousy, unrequited love, nostalgia and (even) existentialism. But for me these themes are explored more compellingly in his other films, such as the aforementioned Hannah And Her Sisters, Stardust Memories, Another Woman and Crimes And Misdemeanours.
As you may have gathered, the usual Allen one-liners are few and far between. Unsurprisingly, they are reserved for Stritch, who, in response to daughter Lane's bemoaning of her unfulfilled ambitions, quips reassuringly, 'You're young, you're lovely - of course you dress like a Polish refugee'.
The other notable fact about the film was that Allen shot it twice, first with a cast including Sam Shepard, Maureen O'Sullivan and Charles Durning, before deciding that this original casting was unsuitable.
In summary, not one of Allen's greatest, but certainly worth a viewing.
on 6 February 2013
Another Allen movie about the volatility and relative meaninglessness of it all, September is not as rich of dry humor and effective punch lines as some of his other films. He investigates jealousy, bitterness, betrayal, love, but it is all not as deep as seen elsewhere in Allen's prolific filmography.
My favorite quote: "Universe is haphazard, morally neutral and unimaginably violent." I tend to agree.
on 26 September 2014
Awesome film, I really enjoyed it. Quick delivery and the item was in perfect condition.
on 9 July 2005
I am a devoted Allen fan but this was a dreary, aimless movie that contained the worst line ever written in a movie.
"My husband was a Radiologist but I never did let him x-ray me. I didn't want him to look at what my heart said"
Shame on you Woody - what a howler.