Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Elaine Stritch, Denholm Elliott, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Sam Waterston
Director: Woody Allen
Woody Allen delivers a haunting, "superbly constructed" (The Hollywood Reporter) film that examines the intricate world of human emotions and the delicate threads that hold them together. Beautifully acted by an all-star c... more »
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Underrated and excellent play
William Kersten | Reno, NV United States | 07/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard T. Jameson, who has the dubious distinction of writing the "official" editorial statement about this Allen masterpiece, does not know what he is talking about. As often happens here on Amazon, many of the customer reviews are far more knowledgeable and discerning that the conventional mainstream critic's assessments.This is a finely written, highly dramatic play transfered flawlessly to film by a master cinematographer and is immensely superior to "Interiors" which is heavily influenced by, if not actually ripped off from, Ingmar Bergman. Here, the influence is subsumed into Allen's style and milieu, and he gets tremendous performances from the cast, especially Mia Farrow who despite the later troubles with Allen gave him a heartbreaking rendition of the fragile, wounded character of "Lane" who is brought to a state of desperation in the climax of the story, which is a spellbinding example of pure dramatic storytelling."
Great Set Piece / Wonderful Performances / Limited Interest
B. Marold | Bethlehem, PA United States | 06/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`September', written and directed but not starring Woody Allen is, what he describes as a `chamber piece' done after the symphony of `Radio Days' with its huge cast and expansive settings. In most ways, the movie is a reprise of the style of his very first serious movie, `Interiors'. In many ways, `September' is far more successful than `Interiors'. I am an ardent Woody Allen fan, and `Interiors' even leaves me feeling a bit flat.
Like `Interiors' and unlike some of his major seriocomic movies such as `Crimes and Misdemeanors', `September' has not a single joke and just the barest of embarrassingly humorous situation. Unlike `Interiors', you can identify several of Allen's favorite subjects; the most prominent one being the difference between perception and reality or, as he most commonly frames it, between fact and fiction.
All action takes place in late August (`almost September') inside or on the porch of a rather large rural house in Vermont, set by a pond, and built by the principle character's father. The background information on the six marquee characters is spotty, with tidbits being parceled out slowly over the course of the short movie. The facts about the major players follows.
Lane, played by Mia Farrow, is a damaged young photographer who has been out of work due to an undisclosed medical problem, probably psychiatric. She is depicted as the purported owner of the house, which she is planning to sell to pay off her medical expenses and get a new start in New York City.
Peter, played by Sam Waterston (replacing Sam Shephard in a reshoot of the entire film), is a Madison Avenue advertising (copy writer or editor?) who is spending some time over a Summer vacation in Vermont to finish a first novel. As the movie opens, he is seen as Lane's boyfriend.
Stephanie, played by Dianne Wiest, is a close friend to Lane. Stephanie is married with a family living in Philadelphia, but is taking time away from her husband to resolve some emotional differences. She is considering a trip to Paris as the movie opens.
Howard, played by Denholm Elliott (replacing Charles Durning in the reshoot), is a local French teacher who is a good local friend to Lane and her family.
Diane, played by Elaine Stritch (replacing Maureen O'Sullivan in the reshoot), is Lane's mother by Diane's first husband, who she left for a second man who abused Diane. The story as the movie opens establishes that Lane shot and killed Diane's second husband when Lane was but 14 years old. In what seems like a throwaway `Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolff' moment, it is revealed that Diane actually shot her husband and the story cooked up for the police and the trial was that the shooting was done by the underage Lane.
Lloyd, played by Jack Warden, is Diane's current (third?) husband who happens to be a theoretical physicist. His speciality is not spelled out, but since he did do some work at Los Alamos, it can be assumed that he worked in quantum physics. This is a bit more than nominally interesting, as a theme running through the dialogue is the notion that, like events at the quantum level, everything is random.
The heart of the story is how Lane, fragile at best at the opening of the movie, is brought even lower by two quick blows to her fragile psyche. The first is her mother's deciding to live in the Vermont house permenantly, countering Lane's plans to sell the house to financially recover. The second of the two blows is when Lane discovers that boyfriend Peter is romantically entangled with married friend Stephanie.
The theme of fiction versus reality arises in the suggestion Diane makes to Peter that he writes Diane's memoirs. It is not entirely clear to what Diane owes her celebrity, but a couple touring the house with an interest in making an offer to purchase recognizes Diane's photograph as a person of celebrity with major contacts with Broadway and Las Vegas performers. The theme peaks with the allegation that it was Diane, not Lane who killed her second husband.
Another theme is life after death, brought out by Diane's playing with an old Ouija board trying to contact past husbands, versus current husband's very scientific view of the randomness of nature.
The one area where Allen outdoes practically all other films is that in place of a romantic triangle, Allen creates a romantic square with both Lane and Stephanie paired up with both Peter and Howard at different points in the movie.
This is probably one of Allen's most literate and circumscribed movies. Even with the few characters and the very small set, there are still a lot of loose ends. The whole story could probably be told in a `New Yorker' short story, of which Allen wrote many early in his career.
As the action is relatively easy to follow and the resolutions end on a fairly positive note, this is a much less depressing film than `Interiors'. It is also artistically superior, but not up to the level of his very best films.
A `must see' for any Allen fan. People who just like his comedies can take a pass.
Renn Martin | 10/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""September" is Woody Allen's updated version of the Chekhov play "Uncle Vanya". It is not "like" "Uncle Vanya", or as great as "Uncle Vanya". It is "Uncle Vanya". The sex of some of the characters has been changed and the dialog has been updated (Art Tatum had yet to be born when Chekhov wrote "Uncle Vanya"), but the movie is as true to Chekov's play as, for example, the movie "O" is to Shakespeare's "Othello".
Those of you who have criticized "September" as boring, including Amazon's own reviewer, Richard T. Jameson, who called it, '...the single most excruciating viewing experience the Woodman ever invited audiences to share..." need to see or read Chekov's masterpieces, The "Cherry Orchard", "Three Sisters", "The Seagull" and-most especially-"Uncle Vanya", in order that you may make your observations from a more informed perspective. Chekov was once criticized as the "..master of the play in which nothing happens..." Unfortunately, Amazon lists no VHS or DVD versions of Uncle Vanya, so you will have to wait to see Vanya performed at a college near you or sit down under a good lamp and read.
The fact that Woody Allen has never dumbed down his writing to the level of most of the movie-going public has been a two edged sword and it has cut him both ways. One only has to read the reviews here on Amazon to understand why. Is anyone curious as to why the reviews of this movie are so polarized? This is either Woody's most boring movie ever, or the reviewer's favorite Woody movie-almost nothing in the middle. I hope he gets a good laugh over that if he bothers to read such things.
I have looked all over the internet to find a reference to Woody's source for the movie and have not found it mentioned. Roger Ebert praised the movie saying, "... In the neat pairings of couples and non-couples, Allen almost seems to be making a modern-dress Elizabethan comedy..." and that "... he is as acute an author of serious dialogue as anyone now making movies..." Read Uncle Vanya, Roger."
Like being in a trance...
Renn Martin | 07/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I admit that when I first saw September back in the late '80's the movie seemed...thin, lacking in substance, not a whole lot to it. I just saw it again for the first time in several years when Turner Classics had "Woody Allen month" a while ago.Boy, was I ever surprised by the difference a decade or more can make! This is a superb film that accomplishes in its own way what a jazz improvisation or piece of chamber music can, i.e. an illustration of strength through delicacy. And jazz echoes all the way through the trickling stream of this beguiling chamber drama. The Tatum/Webster piano/sax duet of "My One and Only Love" is both exquisite in its own right as well as a masterstroke of subtle cruelty by director Allen: no one in this movie gets the one they love. And the languorous blackout sequence, where Dianne Wiest takes to the piano and plays one wistful ballad after another is pure heaven.If you've ever had to deal with an aging, overbearing parent, then you can relate to September. The spectacle of Farrow's character still paying as an adult for the crimes (literal and otherwise) that her mother inflicted on her as a child is some of the truest, finely observed stuff Allen has put on film. Lane (Farrow) is trapped in a kind of arrested development. She speaks of wanting to sell the Vermont house and move to Manhattan to make it as a photographer. I had a hard time believing this. Lane is a creature of the Vermont woods, and while the city might perhaps energize her it is more likely that the teeming New York streets would repel her back into dreamworld or worse. When Lane disparages her ability to succeed as an artist, Wiest tough-loves her, "you'll just have to try harder, won't you!?"I found Elaine Stritch's monologue at/with the Ouija board a tad coy. Yet her exit line about donating her diaphragm to the antique fair more than makes up for it!"