Everyone is gathering at Lane's place for the weekend, and everyone's in love. Unfortunately, each beloved loves somebody else, and no one seems to realize it. Written by
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 cast 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.
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.
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