12 January 2007

Interiors (1978, Woody Allen)

{59, B-, **1/2} | Film Forum, "Essentially Woody"

• Introduced by Mary Beth Hurt, which is only just since she gives by far the film's finest performance (albeit mostly by virtue of having been cast in by far the most interesting role, with the possible exception of Maureen Stapleton's). Few characters are as tricky to pull off as the Angry Facilitator, and Hurt does full justice to Joey's warring impulses, often rupturing and suturing in practically the same breath. She's terrific in Garp, too; wonder why she kinda fell off the map after that.

• Not only is Allen aping Bergman here, he's aping the very aspects of Bergman that I most dislike: the forbidding hush; the endless petulant squabbles; the sense of complete isolation from a hectic, indifferent modern world. (This film might as well be taking place on Fårö.) Seven previous features and a Best Picture Oscar notwithstanding, Interiors is essentially juvenilia, the clumsy, derivative work of an artist struggling to locate his own voice in the context of a new and imposing genre. By that standard, it's remarkably successful, though Allen would later revisit and revise (for the better) much of the material in Hannah and Her Sisters, for which this looks in retrospect like an early pencil sketch.

• Compositions are a tad self-conscious, particularly w/r/t the arrangement of bodies in the frame (e.g., the way Renata is always sequestered from everyone else in wider shots).

• Of all the commonplace events in life, adult children dealing with their parents' twilight divorce is perhaps the least dramatized. Consequently, this film derives much of its power from the fact that its melodramatic facets have never quite become clichéd. This also allows Geraldine Page to get away with a mightily theatrical performance that might otherwise smack of soap. (Actually, maybe soaps address this issue every week—I have no idea. But movies sure don't.)

• No twist ending I'll see this year is likely to have the startling impact of Interiors' opening credits, which are in—gasp!—a different font. (Annie Hall had already introduced his standard Windsor.)

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