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Interiors – 1978
Woody Allen

Woody Allen

Robert Greenhut executive
Charles H. Joffe
Jack Rollins

Kristin Griffith – Flyn
Mary Beth Hurt – Joey
Richard Jordan – Frederick
Diane Keaton – Renata
E.G. Marshall – Arthur
Geraldine Page – Eve
Maureen Stapleton – Pearl
Sam Waterston – Mike
Missy Hope – Young Joey
Kerry Duffy – Young Renata
Nancy Collins – Young Flyn
Penny Gaston – Young Eve
Roger Morden – Young Arthur
Henderson Forsythe – Judge Bartel

Review by Jack Gatanella

more than just a Bergman homage, it’s deeply felt, and superbly acted, tragic theater,

It has been an easy observation &/or criticism of Interiors, Woody Allen’s first break from acting and comedy as a filmmaker, is an homage of the bleak, spellbinding films of despair of Ingmar Bergman’s films. It’s not without a point that critics note this; homages of Bergman have shown in many of his films (Love & Death, Husbands & Wives, Deconstructing Harry, etc).

But one must not neglect that if Woody connects to Bergman, Bergman connects with the masters of naturalistic drama like Ibsen and Strindberg, and that as a writer Woody has been influenced by dozens and dozens of authors of literature and theater. With Interiors his script and direction is is observant, and is able to get under the skin of a viewer by giving the characters (under the upper-class veneer) attributes that aren’t too oblique or cold. It is definitely not one of the Woody films I would recommend to someone first getting into his films- the comedies are best for that- but it is a great start to the sort of section of films that Woody does (there are two I consider- his entertaining, sophisticated comedies, which he often is the star of, being one, and the other being his dramas).

One thing is hard to dispute, the cast that is assembled is all pro, who physically look the parts and emotionally sink into them as real people, not caricatures. Flyn, Joey, and Renata are daughters of a wealthy (would-be) lawyer (EG Marshall) and her perfectionist, needy, and mentally troubled homemaker Eve (Geraldine Page, perhaps her best). After their separation, Eve tries to make it on her own, still controlling, still clinging to the children who will stay around her (which is Joey), but has a breakdown and attempted suicide. Soon after this, Marshall’s character finds love elsewhere (played by Maureen Stapleton, also a very good performance, a fascinating outsider in the midst of the family’s reaching for real love and happiness). This brings even more turmoil on the sisters, who each deal with their own emotional/psychological problems with themselves and their significant others.

It’s hard to point out who’s performances are the ‘best’ in the film, as each contribute something different and intense. Keaton is particularly interesting as a writer with a drunken writer husband, who can’t seem to come to grips with herself amid the looming presence of her mother. Hurt’s character is similar in this vein, but dealing with something a little more existential, I think. Most of the characters- curiously not Eva (who, for this reason, is a little more affecting and arresting in her quiet, disturbed qualities)- talk out what they are thinking or feeling, and because of this the audience gets clear ideas of who these people are and their struggles, but also leaves room for interpretation, for analysis. Even Stapleton’s character is hard to judge or classify outright- she is the quasi-intruder, but she doesn’t mean to be, she’s just fallen for the Marshall’s character. And, like the best of Bergman and other naturalistic theater greats, Woody gives long, striking, extremely well-written passages/monologues of dialog.

Lest I forget to mention the incalculable contribution of Gordon Willis. Responsible for the cinematography of all of Woody’s late 70’s/early 80’s films, he helps to bring out the intricate, detailed, and sometimes obvious angles and prolonged shots of the rooms of the houses and apartments, giving minimal or next-to-no light in the darker-themed scenes, and really giving a boost to the subject matter. Some may see this and almost take it for parody, and it could have been if the actors played it just a step wrong or if the writing wasn’t as honest. But by the last shot of the film, the three sisters in profile and in complete mourning/contemplation, one senses Willis bringing out the full-on artist of Woody.

It’s a beautiful shot, a little self-aware, but engaging after a film that has done that just right.

Interiors (1978)

Review by Wayne Malin

Woody Allen’s best drama,
Allen’s first really serious film plays like an Bergman film. It’s a dead serious study of a very dysfunctional family.

The father (E.G. Marshall) wants a trial separation from his wife (Geraldine Page). This totally destroys her life but her grown children try to help. One daughter (Diane Keaton) keeps giving her false hope that her husband will return. Meanwhile she has issues with her husband (Richard Jordan)–he finds her very condescending about his writing and she reacts with anger. Another daughter (Mary Beth Hurt) tries to get her mother to face reality. She has no direction in life herself and her husband (Sam Waterston) wants a child. A third daughter (Kristin Griffith) barely figures in this.

Somber, bleak, quiet and stark. Full of angry, unsatisfied people–the only humor is provided by Maureen Stapleton who shows up late in the movie. This film contains many emotionally vicious moments. It’s unpleasant sometimes but you can’t stop watching. The dialogue is great–full of fascinating insights into what the characters are feeling. Occasionally the actors sound like they’re giving speeches instead of talking but that’s rare. Marshall seems ill at ease in his role but everyone else is dead on target. Especially good are Page who is frightening–you can see her trying not to feel and control everything at the same time. Keaton is just superb–one of her best ever dramatic performances. A highlight is the last sequence between Hurt and Page.

The film sometimes seems over-directed–everything is so precise and ordered but it fits the tone of the movie. Also the ending is a little too pat and Griffith is given nothing to do–I often wonder what she was doing in this.

Still this is an exceptional drama. It’s not for everyone–it may be too bleak for most people but I think it’s Allen’s best drama.

A 10 all the way.

Review by Zetes

Interiors (1978)

Woody’s first drama,

This was Woody Allen’s first attempt to break into straight drama after a string of successful comedies, culminating in his Best Picture winning Annie Hall the previous year. Interiors is a good film, owing a lot to Bergman. But, like many of his subsequent dramas, it doesn’t feel so much like Bergman as Bergman-lite.

Compare Interiors with Bergman’s contemporaneous film, Autumn Sonata, and Allen’s film barely holds up. Still, there is a lot of power to be found in Interiors. The story concerns three adult women whose parents have split up. It was their father’s decision, and their mother feels utterly rejected. At first, I felt like the characters with whom Allen wanted me to sympathize were the least sympathetic, not to mention the most whiny. I found myself sympathizing with the characters whom I thought Allen was showing us in the most negative light, such as Flyn, the daughter who was now a shallow Hollywood actress, and Pearl, the straightforward woman whom the father was going to marry.

Thankfully, Allen steers away from judging these characters too harshly, if only at the very end of the film. Allen is very talented at creating moods, and the emotional ambiguity of the final moments worked very well. He would grow more talented at this type of film as he moved on in his career, but Interiors is a very good start. 8/10.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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