Thursday, September 15, 2011

Film Friday: Screw It, I Want to Write About This Film

Two for you, one for me.  After giving you guys a thorough preview of coming films that I am excited about, and some overly in-depth Oscar coverage, I thought I would take this opportunity to take a step back and discuss a film that has been on my mind fairly consistently since I watched it a few weeks ago, Woody Allen’s Another Woman

I know, I know, I’ve written about Woody Allen films a few times recently and the thought of reading about one of his lesser-known films from the late ‘80’s isn’t exactly exciting or totally relevant.  But dang it, I’ve tried to leave it alone, but I can’t stop thinking about it, and it deserves to be seen.  So screw it, I’m going to review an old(ish) movie that practically no one has seen.

The movie stars Gena Rowlands, best known to teenage girls everywhere as the Alzheimer’s-stricken woman opposite James Garner in tearjerker The Notebook.  Here, she plays Marion, a university philosophy professor who is writing a new book.  Marion rents an apartment solely for the purpose of having a space in which to write without distraction, only to discover that a psychiatrist has rented the apartment next door, and, through the heating ducts, Marion becomes privy to the therapy sessions.  As she begins to listen to the conversations going on, she starts to examine her own life, as fundamental questions of love, friendship, ambition, and above all, regret, begin to overwhelm her.

I have never once connected with a female character as strongly as I did with Marion in this movie, and that, to me, is one of the major triumphs of this film.  Marion has a life we would all covet—a distinguished career as a professor, living in a fancy apartment in uptown Manhattan with her similarly successful husband, being invited to parties, fancy dinners in restaurants, writing books, etc.  

But, Marion realizes exactly how lackluster her attitude toward her picturesque lifestyle has become, and moreover, the outright façade that it is. Woody Allen uses various symbols to display Marion’s dullness of life, the least subtle of which is the grey and brown-hued costumes of the main characters, as well as the low-lit and unremarkable interior design of apartments and restaurants that Marion visits.  Through listening to the problems of these unseen therapy patients, she begins to confront the various demons from her past, and ultimately, her present; only then can she start the difficult process of accepting herself.

I, and I assume many of you, relate to this human condition strongly.  I have weak moments where I ponder the monotony of life, which leads to questioning and regret.  When I hear a beautiful piano tune, I regret that I never practiced harder and became as good as I should have been.  When I see moving film, I often regret not giving the film industry a go, as you can probably tell.  I frequently see “friends” on Facebook and question the circumstances that led me to lose contact with that person, and I’m remorseful of those circumstances.  And yes, in the weakest of moments, I think of former relationships, and wonder if it could have worked out in some alternative universe. 

An emotional sequence near the end just about
wrecked me.
I have to remind myself often of just how good I have it—a wife whom I happen to be ridiculously in love with, a two-bedroom apartment with the Rocky Mountains in view from my deck, a couple of cars, friends and family that I can count on no matter what, and above all, a spiritual life that grows daily, providing a peace and understanding that nothing of this world can offer.  When I think of these things, I realize how low of me it really is to mull over a few things that can’t be changed.  In the end, that’s life: accepting that our choices—whether successes or failures—have made us the people that we are, and that we are better off because of those choices. 

Moreover, as Marion realizes, amends can be made.  Whether it’s me dusting off the piano and learning a new tune, or spending some time on screenplays I’ve neglected, or rekindling old friendships, self-examination gives us the opportunity to start anew.  We are more than able be the person we want to be, even if it’s a person we may have lost site of, like Marion did.  This process is difficult and often involves swallowing pride and exercising demons that are haunting our present, as this film portrays. 

Well, at this point I’ve pretty much thrown objective film criticism out the window.  Indeed, a dreamy montage at the end of the film portraying Marion in a rainy romantic rendezvous (which nearly brought me to tears) happens to feature a beautiful piece of music that was in my own wedding, so the chances of my being objective were slim to none.  But if a film can’t cause you to completely abandon objectivity every once in awhile, then what’s the point of it in the first place? 

If you have wrestled with any of the things I’ve discussed here in your own life, then I highly suggest surrendering a mere 81 minutes of your life on this buried treasure of a film, which is available on Netflix Instant, and for me is a straight-up 10/10.

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