Fruitlessly searching through streaming land for the Robert Gottlieb-Robert Caro documentary "Turn Every Page," I instead clicked upon "Interiors," Woody Allen's first "serious" drama.
Allen wrote and directed the moody 1978 film, not appearing in the production as he had in his previous comedies. The movie mixes Ingmar Bergman-flavored angst and New York intellectual despair. Not a lot of laughs, except for the unconscious self-mockery of the self-indulgent characters.
The film like Allen's later "Hannah and Her Sisters" explores the wounded love of sisters. Allen's wonderful cast mirrors the generational family dynamics: Maureen Stapleton, Geraldine Page and E.G. Marshall from the old guard and the then new generation of Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, Kristin Griffith, Richard Jordan and Sam Waterston.
Stapleton's appearance late in the movie as the raucous, earthy Pearl brings a welcome shot of energy to the film after long stretches of pretentious New York intellectual dialogue.
Marshall as the patriarch of the family, a successful New York attorney ready for an adventurous retirement, and Page as his mentally fragile ex-wife, an interior designer, give a masterful performance. Keaton, Hurt, Griffith, Jordan and Waterston rise to match their classical acting. .
Keaton, Allen's paramour and muse, stands out as the reflective Renata, perhaps named in homage to the New Yorker film critic Renata Adler. Her implausible success as a poet contrast with the career disappointments of her sister, Joey, played by Hurt, who resembles another winsome star of the time, Carrie Snodgress. Their conflicted relationship is the film's main dramatic fulcrum.
Waterston's performance as a long-haired counterculture radical amusingly displays the same mannerisms and vocal inflections exhibited in in his long-running role as the district attorney Jack McCoy in "Law and Order." Now 82, Waterston is again playing McCoy in a revived "Law and Order."
After unveiling the film's human relationships with dialogue and restricted settings, Allen impressively shifts to film's visual power with images of the sea, a homage to Bergman. Allen's imagery - a vase, flowers, the beach - complements his theatrical language.
The film ends with Keaton and her sisters looking out the window of their childhood home to a calm sea. They are at last ready to move on with their lives.
Allen was more European than other Hollywood directors. "Interiors" opens a different path for American cinema, sadly rarely followed.
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