September Review

The film:Lane (Mia Farrow) has decided to invite friends to her house out in the country for the end of the summer. She's hoping that Peter (Sam Waterston) will find inspiration to finish his book but her mother (Elaine Stritch) has turned up and is causing havoc in the house. Peter seems hesitant about committing himself any further with Lane and has got writer's block - a common affliction for Allen's characters! Lane's close friend, Stephanie (Dianne Wiest), has also come along. She doesn't know exactly what to do to help Lane as she is so overwrought by her mother's presence. Besides Stephanie is too preoccupied with her own problems to be of any help to Lane.

To have been a fly on the wall during the making of this film! Woody started by casting Christopher Walken in the role of Peter - but felt that Walken was acting "too sexy" for the way he imagined the character. Allen changed the script to underline Peter's fragility but Walken was still too confident for him. So one evening Allen phones Walken up to see if he could try and change his way of acting slightly. Evidently exasperated Walken quits the film after only three weeks. Sam Shepard comes in to replace Walken but Woody still feels he plays Peter in too sexy a fashion. He still sticks with Shepard and finishes the film to then refilm it entirely a while later without Shepard! This time he casts Waterston in the role of Peter and things seem to finally gel. Still the film was a financial disaster and flopped at the box-office...

The influences of Chekhov are quite evident here most notably Uncle Vania and The Cherry Orchard - without a doubt fine influences to have but given that his previous attempt to emulate Bergman was a resounding disaster, taking on Chekhov could be seen as tempting fate. The good news is that September doesn't fall flat on it's face - it has sufficient charm and good performances to hold itself together. On the other hand, it is quite slow to get going and isn't the most riveting film Allen ever made but it's hard to compare this film to his one-liner fuelled classics. Also if you can't stand neurotic New-Yorkers complaining about their mid-life crises it's a complete non-starter! You could probably classiify this as a minor Allen thankfully nowhere near as painfully serious as Interiors or some parts of Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The DVD:
The image:This is the usual treatment that MGM have given Allen's films - they all get anamorphic enhancement and are correctly framed but aren't really that spectacular. The print is clean with the occasional flecks and scratches but it looks unusually grainy on closer inspection. That doesn't take much away from the enjoyment of the film but makes this transfer seem below par for the series. The luminosity of the print also seems a little too somber but maybe that was intended by Allen. There is little artifacting present and nothing to fault it beyond the quality of the original print.

The sound:We get the usual mono which is what Woody always films in. The sound is clear but unspectacular with the dialogue and the music mixed at the correct levels.

The menus:The usual non-animated low-tech type from MGM with stills from the film acting as backgrounds to the menus. They do their job but nothing more.

The extras:As usual we get the theatrical trailer which is strangely devoid of any dialogue - maybe to hide the fact it wasn't a comedy!- and probably didn't help to sell the film much. For some reason this is transferred and framed in full-frame.

Conclusions:Yet another addition to the Woody Allen collection with almost all of his releases available on DVD which is something one can only applaud. Although extras will never be on the cards, these releases at least make Allen's work available in our favourite format. September is probably never going to take the world by storm but is effective in its own way.

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