• Interiors



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: February 14, 2017
    Directed by: Woody Allen
    Cast: Geraldine Page, Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, Sam Waterston, E.G. Marshall, Maureen Stapleton, Kristin Griffith, Richard Jordan
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Arthur (E.G. Marshall), an upper-class attorney in NYC, announces one morning over breakfast that he wants a separation from his wife, Eve (Geraldine Page). Eve, a domineering mother and frustrated interior decorator (giving the title of the film a double meaning), is already depressed, but she sinks further into despondency upon hearing the news, despite the fact that her husband insists the two may yet be reconciled. The couple’s three children—Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), Renata (Diane Keaton), and Flyn (Kristin Griffith), as well as their partners, Frederick (Richard Jordan) and Mike (Sam Waterston)—react to the news in different ways. Flyn buries herself in her acting career out West, leaving Joey and Renata to handle the worsening crisis. Joey wants to be honest with their mother about her chances of getting back with their father, while Renata believes in offering their mother hope, even if that hope is groundless. Meanwhile, Arthur meets, falls in love with, and gets engaged to Pearl (Maureen Stapleton), a “vulgarian” in the eyes of his children. On the night of Arthur and Pearl’s wedding, emotions reach a boiling point, culminating in tragedy.

    Woody Allen (birth name: Allan Stewart Kingsberg) began his career as a television script writer before turning to books and stand-up comedy. After making a name for himself, he wrote his first film, What’s New Pussycat? which was produced in 1965. Unimpressed, he vowed to direct every movie he wrote going forward, and a string of successful comedies followed. While he occasionally starred in other people’s films, he mostly focused on his own work and brought Diane Keaton to international fame. In 1977 came Allen’s first truly lauded work, the mega-successful Annie Hall, which won several Academy Awards and made $38 million on a $4 million budget. The film, while ostensibly a comedy, moved Allen away from the more obvious comedic elements of his earlier work and included a much stronger dramatic content. It also resulted in him moving almost completely away from comedy with his next picture, Interiors.

    Interiors isn’t just set apart from the rest of Allen’s previous work by its serious tone. It also contains a stronger Bergmanesque approach in both direction and storytelling. It’s a stark film that offers great contrasts, both visually and literarily. Unfortunately for Allen, it met with mediocre box office receipts and varying acclaim. It certainly starts out strong and holds its course until the final 15 minutes or so, when it wavers and then ends on too pat a note. All but one of the actors is good to excellent (the exception being Kristin Griffith). While Keaton, Hurt, Marshall, and Waterston more than hold their own, the major kudos are reserved for two of the three seasoned veterans in the cast: Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton. Page’s portrayal of a woman falling apart after separating from her husband is one of staggering personal loss and is difficult to watch in its intensity. Stapleton’s portrayal of a woman desperate to fit into a world not of her own making is likewise heartbreaking. Given Page’s presence looms so large over the first half of the film while Stapleton’s does so over the second half provides the incentive any anti-Allen fans may need to give the film at least one go-round.

    Interiors will not be to everyone’s liking. It may not even be to most Allen fans’ liking. But it’s hard to deny such carefully crafted, beautifully enacted performances, and if Interiors is anything, it’s a performance piece, a play with shifting scenery recorded on film.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Woody Allen’s Interiors arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition at its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. It appears to come from the same transfer used for Arrow’s release in the United Kingdom, though the contrast appears to have been tweaked a bit and the image slightly brightened. Given how emotionally heavy and complex the film is, it seems suitable that Allen would choose such a low-key, minimalist approach in the way he shot it, with colors that border on monochrome. Whites abound, and there’s a great deal of backlighting, often with natural sources (such as light streaming through windows on cloudy days). Given that this is the most Bergmanesque of Allen’s films, the transfer seems appropriate. There isn’t a tremendous amount of detail to be had, and colors don’t pop because they aren’t there. This is a mood piece. The film certainly has a soft look, with the most detail occurring in outdoor locations, such as when waves crash against the beach, a motif that Allen revisits throughout. There are occasional interiors (no pun intended) that reveal a surfeit of detail, but these are exceptions to the rule, a rule established not so much by the transfer itself as by the way Allen’s cinematographer—Gordon Willis—shot the affair. Grain is organic and filmic; never too prevalent nor entirely invisible.

    Twilight Time has placed the film on a dual-layered BD50. As a result, there are no compression issues.

    Twilight Time’s release comes with a single audio option: lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. There are no negatives to be said about it. The film doesn’t really have a score per se, which explains the lack of a music-and-effects-only track (a staple with Twilight Time releases). The dialogue and effects sound very good, with no perceptible distortion to mar them. Sounds effects are well used by Allen, as betrayed by one scene in which a character angrily lashes out and knocks a group of votive candles to the floor in an otherwise silent Catholic church). TT has also included English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. There are no commentary tracks due to Allen’s personal belief that his films “should speak for themselves.”

    The only extra is a theatrical trailer, which you may want to watch only after you’ve seen the film. While it focuses on positive reviews for the film, it does include a couple of key dramatic moments that should be saved for your initial viewing of the film (if, indeed, you’ve never seen the film before).

    Finally, rounding out the release is an 8-page booklet containing full color photographs as well as liner notes by esteemed film historian Julie Kirgo. Kirgo’s history in television and as a creative writer informs her work, giving her an understanding of the way film and television works that many film historians don’t have. Her notes for Interiors are no exception in showcasing her talent with the pen. For those who lament the lack of a commentary track, here it is in written form: Kirgo provides a history and critical assessment of the film that is perceptive, insightful, and sometimes genuinely funny.

    The Final Word:

    Interiors may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for ardent fans of director Woody Allen’s dramas, here it is, finally available on Blu-ray in the United States. Some may at first be disappointed with the transfer, but look closer and you’ll see rich detail where Allen wants you to see it. Otherwise, this is a striking visual work that seeks to ape Bergman’s color schemes and sense of framing, and it offers terrific performances from almost everyone involved. There are no extras other than the original theatrical trailer, but blame Allen—not Twilight Time—for that.

    Interiors is a limited edition of 3,000 units.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!