• September



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Release date: September 19, 2017
    Directed by: Woody Allen
    Cast: Denholm Elliott, Mia Farrow, Elaine Stritch, Jack Warden, Sam Waterston, Diane Wiest
    Year: 1987
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Steffi (Wiest) isn’t sure she loves her husband anymore, so she’s taking a break from him and her children for the summer, hanging out with her friend Lane (Farrow) in Lane’s country house in Vermont. Lane, as it happens, is recovering from a suicide attempt and can use the company. Lane’s mother, Diane (Stritch), an overbearing ex-socialite, is also paying an extended visit, along with her current husband. Lloyd (Warden), a kind, grandfatherly physicist.

    A writer, Peter (Waterston), has been renting Lane’s guest house while working on a novel. He’s trying to pull away from Lane, with whom he’s been having a sort-of affair, and court Steffi, who’s been playing the “come here, go away” game with him all summer and only recently decided on the latter. Lane remains helplessly, embarrassingly in love with Peter. At the same time, Lane’s older neighbor, Howard (Elliot), a French teacher, is making no secret of the fact that he’s fallen in love with her. Most everybody involved loves someone who doesn’t love him or her back, and it’s not looking too hopeful for any of them.

    Woody Allen has said that September was modeled on an Anton Chekhov play titled Uncle Vanya, and it very much comes off as something written for the stage. The plot is completely dialogue-driven, and everything takes place in three or four rooms (of a house in Connecticut owned at the time by Farrow; Allen claimed to have written September specifically to be filmed there). Visually and tonally, the film actually reeks more of Bergman, with its soft-focus, autumnal color scheme and oh-so-longwinded goings-on.

    September is a very adept work, technically, but it’s also emotionally dark. Its unlikeable characters are well-drawn, and the performances are superb. How well it works as entertainment—and reviews at the time were mixed—rests squarely on the viewer’s capacity for watching sad, fucked-up people inflict their issues on one another. The only ones who have it remotely together are the rudely obnoxious Diane and the dull-but-stable Lloyd. They seem to actually love each other, which is more than any other two people in the cast are capable of pulling off. September, along with Interiors (1978) and 1988’s Another Woman, is pretty much the most straightforwardly dramatic of Allen’s work to date, with his typically wry humor mostly absent.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time brings yet another Woody Allen film to Blu-ray courtesy of an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a BD50. The scarcity of extras and the shortness of the film allows for a high bitrate, and in terms of detail, the visual aspect of September reflects that fact. Grain is minor, just enough to add a pleasingly filmic look. A look at the actors’ faces and clothes, as well as the furniture spread throughout the single set, reveal a textured image of exquisite lines and details. This is, characteristically of Allen’s obsession with Bergman throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, a visually drab, colorless affair. Chiaroscuro lighting and an amber tint is used to great effect to reflect the romantically depressed state of the individual characters. Therefore, the image should not be mistaken for a poor transfer from faded elements; this is most definitely not the case.

    The primary track is in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (mono). This is not a film powered by a bombastic or even ever-present score as some are, though there’s the occasional ‘20s-inspired music to accentuate individual moments. Nor is this a track fueled by loud effects work. As with most of Allen’s movies, dialogue is the primary propeller of the story, and the track does well by it; there are no issues to report. Voices come through plain and clear, and there are no problems with defects such as dropout or hiss. There is a secondary track presented in 2.0 that focuses solely on the film’s music and effects. And, as per the company’s standard, Twilight Time has included optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired.

    Per Allen’s own request, the only extra is the film’s original theatrical teaser trailer, which runs 59 seconds and is quite enticing. Twilight Time does include a catalogue of its releases thus far, noting those that have fallen into moratorium. Film historian Julie Kirgo also provides her usually insightful liner notes, which appear in an accompanying 8-page booklet.

    September is limited to 3,000 units.

    The Final Word:

    September is not one of Woody Allen’s more entertaining pictures; in fact, it’s a pretty depressing—if entirely realistic—look at unrequited love and devastating family relationships. The only extra is a trailer, but that has more to do with Allen himself than with Twilight Time. All in all, September is an engaging film of raw power; certainly not for everyone, it should appeal to fans of theatrical drama and Allen’s own substantial base.

    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 is currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

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