Sunday, September 14, 2014

SEPTEMBER (1987)

Following a failed suicide attempt Mia Farrow is holed away at her family's country home in Vermont.  As the film begins she has been there for a few months and summer is drawing to a close.  She longs to return to NYC and restart her life...her life with an aspiring writer (Sam Waterson) who has been renting the guest house.  Early in the summer they had drawn close and even made love, but now Sam is more interested in Mia's married visited friend Dianne Wiest.  Added to this triangle is a neighbor, Denholm Elliott, who is in love with Mia.  And added on to that is Mia's mother and stepfather (Elaine Stritch and Jack Warden) dropping by for a visit.  Mia has a very strained relationship with her mother.

SEPTEMBER is not a happy film.  Anybody looking to see a funny Woody Allen movie will be disappointed in that respect, but they will be treated to a wonderfully written story filled with very flawed and very human characters.  And with only six principal characters and one-hundred percent of the events happening within the confines of the house SEPTEMBER is structured like a play.  It's not often that you see a film made this way and I thought it was wonderful.  The most impressive thing about SEPTEMBER though is Mia Farrow's performance.  Absolutely heartbreaking.

Overall, it's not as impressive as INTERIORS, but I think INTERIORS was going more for the Bergman vibe while SEPTEMBER was going for the Chekhov vibe.  Either way it's triumph of filmmaking.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

RADIO DAYS (1987)

RADIO DAYS doesn't have a straight-forward story, instead it's a collection of anecdotes, urban legends and memories told by a fictional narrator (Allen) fondly remembering the innocent days of his youth growing up in the late 30's/early 40's Rockaway Beach, NY.  Not all of the stories have to do with Rockaway Beach, but most of them do have something to do with radio whether it's the radio performers themselves, something playing over a radio or an actual physical radio itself.  Another focal point is the narrator's family.  It's a big family and they all live in the same house.  I especially liked his mother (Julie Kavner), his father (Michael Tucker) and his lovelorn aunt, played wonderfully by Dianne Wiest.

From beginning to end RADIO DAYS is a delight.  The stories come and go in a leisurely manner and none of them overstay their welcome.  In fact, a lot of them could have been longer.  My favorites were: everything with Mia Forrow (of course), the one where his uncle goes to confront their Communist neighbor (Larry David) and ends up renouncing God, the baseball player that keeps getting injured and the one where the narrator sees his teacher naked.  We also get to hear Diane Keaton sing, which is always a joy.

How much you like RADIO DAYS will depend on how much you enjoy nostalgic stories, but for me I thought it was great.  Would make an interesting double-feature with Fellini's AMARCORD.  Oh yeah, I nearly forgot, the 30's/40's soundtrack is magnificent!