Monday, March 3, 2008

#93: Interiors (Allen, 1978)

Made in between Annie Hall and Manhattan, it’s no surprise that Interiors is a profoundly forgotten work by Woody Allen. Rarely is it ever brought up when discussing the director’s best films and while not the most underrated in his oeuvre, it has failed to receive the recognition it deserves. Oscillating between Bergman homage and familiar Allen eccentricities, the end result is a mature piece of filmmaking distinct in itself. Purposefully clinical and sterile with particular emphasis on soft-lighting to create a cold entrapped environment, it’s as if characters from Allen’s macrocosm have been transported directly into a Bergman film. What could have easily become a precarious facsimile of the Swedish director’s craft, Allen is wise enough to intrinsically stay true to his self while offering a paean to his cinematic hero.

Interiors marks Woody Allen’s first venture into “serious mode” where he abandons the witty humor entirely for the sake of intense melodrama. The film itself is relentlessly bleak; almost lifeless at times. The shot compositions and mise-en-scene take on a hollowness quality; the interior settings drained of veracity reflecting the vapidity of their lives and feelings towards one another. Allen frames his shots with a lot of empty space, positioning his actors where they appear to be suppressed by their environment. Gordon Willis’ exquisite cinematography and lighting techniques perfectly contrast Allen’s imperturbable technique especially during the scenes that take place outside of the somber interiors of the beach house in the Hamptons where the film pre-dominantly takes place. The story centers upon a wealthy family consisting of three sisters Renata (Diane Keaton), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) and Flynn (Kristen Griffith) as they each try to cope with the divorce of their parents who had been married for over 25 years. Eve is the matriarch with the family played by Geraldine Page in a remarkable performance full of despair and overwrought anxiety. With a history of mental illness, the husband’s impetuous decision sets her spiraling into a state of misery where she becomes a nuisance to her daughters and a threat to herself. It’s no coincidence that the bulk of Woody Allen’s oeuvre deals with similar themes and subject matter that Bergman obsessed about during his career such as relationships, artistic integrity, faith, life and of course, death. This film is no different in those regards except it is exclusively unique as anything Allen has ever done because of how austere he is in his methods of displaying such a piercing representation of his characters in crisis.

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