September (Woody Allen, 1987)
In the 1980’s Woody Allen directed eleven movies, many of those are near-masterpieces if not masterpieces. Amongst his films from this decade Crimes and Misdemeanours, Hannah and Her Sisters, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo are my personal favorite. But, even if Allen pleased fans and critics thorough the 1980’s September is considered as the lesser and the most hated or simply oft-overlooked. It is quite easy to agree with everyone when a consensus is form for or against a particular movie. Well, twenty-five years after its initial release, I watched September for the first time lately and I must admit that it is far from being a masterpiece. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting movie that might not be as Allenian as Zelig or Hanna and Her Sisters but an above than average melodrama.
Shot strictly in the interiors of a house this huis clos evolves around a bunch of heavy loaded past characters: Lane (Mia Farrow), her mother Diane (Elaine Stritch), her lover Peter (Sam Waterston), her mother’s lover Lloyd (Jack Warden), the neighbour Howard (Denholm Elliot), and Stephanie (Diane Wiest). As IMDb summarizes the plot Howard loves Lane, she loves Peter that is secretly in love with Stephanie, who’s married with children. The whole story centers on these characters and their interactions with each other and as each discovers the love interests of one and another. Sure the central music is jazz, but what did you expect from Woody? The central scene, an evening during a thunderstorm a blackout occurs. The revelations are set in this almost eerie candle lit setting of stopped time by the ambient darkness and the alcohol ingested. This is the most successful aspect of the film and the scene makes the film.
However, Woody Allen brings us in known territories most of the time and the too many clichés and predictable lines but also the resemblance to the 1978 failure Interiors he probably wanted to revise and be forgiven but the melodrama might been well executed it lacks in the personal touch that Allen easily adds into his films without much effort.
When Allen did Interiors he wanted to make a film like his idol Ingmar Bergman filled with clean cold whites and perfectly directed women characters. The failure of Interiors is the impression of doing another director’s style, narrative, and genre. In September, the autumn tones in the colors and the script are more personal to the Woodman but still I got Bergman not far in my mind while I was watching this interior drama.
Far from being a dud, September might be considered as a lesser Woody Allen picture, but it is still better than his five to seven worst films. At least he’s doing something different and he was trying new things. An inspired Allen that takes risks might be less toothier but is more interesting than the old master resting in his old shoes.