Saturday, July 06, 2013

September (1987 film)

Written and directed by Woody Allen, September is the story of a woman who stays at a country home following a suicide attempt as she befriends a widower while getting visitors who are concerned for her well-being. The film is one of Allen’s more straightforward dramas to play out the idea of death as it is inspired by Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Starring Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Elaine Stricht, Sam Waterston, Denholm Elliot, and Jack Warden. September is a harrowing yet chilling film from Woody Allen.

The film is about a weekend in the country where a woman is in recovering from a suicide attempt as she is living at the house with her mother, her stepfather, and a friend. Meanwhile, two more visitors come to the house to hang out and such where things start to get a little crazy involving the attraction of two people as well a stormy night where a lot of uncertainty happens. Notably as this woman in Lane (Mia Farrow) is trying to sort out her own feelings just as some of the people around her start to unravel in their own messy lives. Woody Allen’s script is quite minimalist as it plays into the life a woman and the people she’s with in the course of a weekend. One of which is a widower named Howard (Denholm Elliot) who admits to Lane that he has feelings for her which surprises Lane though she knows that he’s a good kind man.

Another man in the house is a struggling writer named Peter (Sam Waterston) whom Lane has feelings for but Peter is more interested in Lane’s married friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest) who is going through her own personal problems relating to her marriage. Adding to the chaos is Lane’s mother Diane (Elaine Stricht) who is aware of Lane’s problems as she is more concerned with having a good time and telling Peter about her life for a possible memoir. Diane’s husband Lloyd (Jack Warden) prefers to be in the background while trying to keep things peaceful as he also chats with Peter about his life as a physicist. All of it would play into some of the feelings that had been building in Lane as well as the dark secrets that she had to carry all of her life.

Allen’s direction is quite straightforward as he sets the film entirely in the house with no scenes set outside of the home. There’s an intimacy to the direction but also it is engaging for the way Allen puts the actors into the frame to showcase the intensity and restraint of the drama. While there are a few humorous moments in the dialogue, it is mostly presented as a drama where Allen uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to capture the action. Even as he uses some tracking shots and slow pans to play out the atmosphere in the house. Overall, Allen creates a chilling yet interesting drama about death and secrets.

Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to create a colorful yet low-key approach to the look as well as its lighting schemes. Editor Susan E. Morse does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while using fade-outs to emphasize the story‘s structure. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator George DeTitta Jr. and art director Speed Hopkins, does wonderful work with the look of the house to play out the sense of intimacy that the people are in.

Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly straightforward with the exception of the clothes that Diane wears. Sound mixer James Sabat does some fine work with the sound to capture some of the sound effects outside of the house while maintaining the intimacy of the house from inside. The film’s soundtrack consists of mostly jazz music from Art Tatum, Bernie Leighton and Bert Ambrose playing the standards of the 30s and 40s.

The casting by Juliet Taylor is brilliant as it features appearances from Rosemary Murphy as a real estate agent and Ira Wheeler and Jane Cecil as a couple interested in buying Lane’s home. Jack Warden is excellent as Lane’s stepfather Lloyd who tries to keep everything peaceful while dealing with some of Diane’s flighty decisions and such. Elaine Stricht is wonderful as the very lively Diane as a woman who wants to feel young despite her age while trying to help out Lane though her approach isn’t very good. Sam Waterston is terrific as the struggling writer Peter who is trying to sort out his ideas as a writer and his feelings for Stephanie.

Denholm Elliot is superb as Howard as a widower who befriends Stephanie while talking with Lane about his own loss. Dianne Wiest is amazing as Lane’s friend Stephanie who is trying to sort out her own personal issues while finding herself attractive towards Peter. Finally, there’s Mia Farrow in a remarkable performance as Lane as a woman trying to sort out her issues while dealing with all of the chaos at home as it’s a very intense performance from Farrow.

September is an excellent film from Woody Allen. Armed with a great cast, the film is an intriguing drama that explores family secrets and death as well as a woman’s difficulty with depression. Though it’s kind of a minor work from Allen, it is still interesting for the way he approaches something that is quite heavy in its themes of depression. In the end, September is a stellar film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money & Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

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