BR: September (1987)

November 16, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released: September 19, 2017

Genre:  Drama

Synopsis: A power outage during a planned dinner party reveals secret loves and conflicts that affect an already fragile woman.

Special Features: Isolated Mono Music & Effects Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and




Released the same year as Radio Days, Woody Allen’s September retains cast members Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest, but the tone harkens back to the auteur’s Interiors (1978), a more dour and overwrought attempt at Serious Drama. Lacking that film’s emotional histrionics and grimness, September is a more pleasing quiet chamber piece in which six characters drift through short scenes over a roughly 24 hour period.

Farrow is Lane, the daughter of famous silver screen actress Diane (Elaine Stritch), an overbearing grand dame who genuinely loves her daughter but has poor parental management skills beyond solving crises with the axiom ‘What’s done is done, and is past.’ The family gathering at the family’s rustic Vermont home includes Diane’s third husband Lloyd (Jack Warden), Lane’s new love Peter (Sam Waterston), and best friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest).

The drama starts as the group arrive and Lane prepares what’s supposed to be an evening with another couple, but after bailing, the sextette push on, only to have the merriment frozen due to a power failure. Under the glow of candles and Stephanie continuing the flow of vintage jazz at the piano, the group’s internal relationships and conflicts are slowly peeled back, revealing a curious quandary for Lane: she’s in love with commercial writer / failing novelist Peter, who’s separately in love with married mother Stephanie.

The characters initially gab and philosophize before acting out their emotions, and with Lane discovering the deceit, things sort of implode, but in a civilized European style that doesn’t necessarily destroy relationships, but sends everyone back to their safe corners; emotional risks are shoved back into the closet, including Howard (Denholm Elliott), an older man / neighbour who admits to Lane of his growing love.

The drama comes from the inevitable collision of truths, and although a critical smash-up in the morning is more than a little contrived, the tone of the scenes allows Farrow to strip her character bare, which kind of makes the movie, as does Peter’s dancing around his hunger to touch Stephanie after initially avoiding her, and seeking sage advice in stealth discussions with other characters to build up a bit of courage for that dangerous kiss.

Allen somewhat designed Lane and Diane after Lana Turner and daughter Cheryl Crane, and their troubled relationship when Crane shot and killed her mother’s abusive lover Johnny Stompanato, but it’s really a slight echo, since the crises that sends Lane into a lesser but impactful depression is her goal to sell the house to cover mounting debts, and Diane’s sudden claim of ownership and intent to move back – probably the film’s most contrived plot maneuver that’s supposed to collapse both the house’s sale and Lane’s shaky recovery – but the drama’s final wrap-up is neat, and Lane’s left back where the film began, only this time she’s able to return to NYC without meandering, if not one-sided romances, duplicitous best friends, and her mother finding other impulsively wrought fixations.

Unlike the visual coldness of Interiors, Allen’s drama is draped in the soothing, immaculate soft colours of Carlo Di Palma’s extraordinary cinematography, which bathes the actors and intricately decorated set with warm amber, yellows, slight orange, and soft reds. The house and its furniture is all rustic hand-crafted wood, with old glass, pottery, and old tins bearing the names of long-gone vendors.

The jazz is mostly 1940s, and in a cute in-joke, Stephanie plays Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do,” which is relevant to Peter’s romantic quandary, but also references Waterston’s co-starring in The Great Gatsby (1974), whose theme song was an especially lush version of Berlin’s tune.

The drama’s lightness ensures September doesn’t steer close to the bathos within Interiors, and shows Allen finding a more personal balance between his love of small character pieces, Ingmar Bergman’s soft-spoken filmed plays, and a riff of Anthon Chekhov’s 1898 play Uncle Vanya. All does in fact end well, and broken hearts come from the admission and dismissal of impossible, naïve romantic fantasies. The only question is whether Lane will take the proceeds from the house’s sale and start fresh, or find a small hole where she’ll regress.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports a sharp HD transfer that retains the fine grain of the fast film stock which enabled Di Palma to shoot the drama in low light conditions. The audio mix is a clean mono, and the disc includes an isolated mono music & effects track.

Julie Kirgo’s essay is compact and precise in highlighting the film’s genuine virtues, and it’s curious infamy in being “September 2.0,” a redo after Allen shot the film with a different cast that consisted of Christopher Walken as Peter, Farrow’s real mother Maureen O’Sullivan as Diane, and Charles Durning as Howard.

Where Interiors mandates several viewings to perhaps warm up to its forced Seriousness, September is a less forced, almost natural effort by Allen to craft a small drama and allow a stellar cast to float in their roles with less directorial restrictions.

Woody Allen films released by Twilight Time include Love and Death (1975),Interiors (1978), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose(1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), September (1987),  Radio Days (1987), Another Woman (1988), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and the Allen starring in the Red Menace satire The Front (1976).



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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