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Another Woman is a 1988 film written and directed by Woody Allen (who does not feature here as an actor). It stars Gena Rowlands, Mia Farrow, Ian holm, Blythe Danner and Gene Hackman amongst others. The film is a purely dramatic one and finds Allen in one of his bleak Bergman phases. Bergman's 1957 film 'Wild Strawberries', about a professor taking stock of his life and looking back at the past, is the major influence on Another Woman. Allen's film revolves around Marion Post (Rowlands), a cerebral and chilly philosophy teacher who has just turned 50. Marion, eager to do something important after this milestone, takes a year off work and rents a small apartment as an office in order to work on a book. Eventually, she finds she can hear the sessions of the psychoanalyst next door through the steam vents. She becomes intrigued by the sessions involving a young pregnant woman called Hope (Farrow) who appears close to suicide.
The thoughts of Hope and a risque comment at a party make Marion begin to question her life and the choices she made. She begins to suspect that people don't see her as she'd imagined and that her life has been safe and dull rather than spontaneous or passionate. Marion begins to wonder if she missed out...
Another Woman is one of those austere Allen chamber pieces that about twenty people saw at the cinema and stands alongside Interiors and September as one of his most unrelentingly serious films. It's full of incredibly rich people in tweed who all have professional jobs and can namedrop obscure European poets or writers safe in the knowledge that their friends will get the reference. Because these people don't have to worry about money they worry about more abstract existential things. The central idea here of overhearing the sessions of a psychoanalyst was one Allen dreamed up years before and had intended for a comedy treatment about a man who seduces a woman with inside information because he overheard her secrets and likes and dislikes. Allen decided to use it instead for dramatic purposes in Another Woman, the information Marion hears affecting her in a more profound and serious way, although he later wheeled the idea out again in its original comic form for a subplot in his ho-hum musical 'Everyone Says I Love You'. Interestingly, Allen has said that Marion Post is one of the characters in his films who is closest to him in terms of personality.
While Another Woman is not exactly a barrel of laughs and won't be everybone's cup of tea, it is technically a very well made film and features an excellent cast. Gena Rowlands is well cast as Marion - a woman who suddenly begins to question her whole life and wonder if she missed out by being so emotionally controlled and detatched. Marion lived with her college professor as a young woman but left only for him to commit suicide later. She had an abortion in order not to interrupt her career. She turned down the colourful Larry (Gene Hackman) because she was afraid of his adoration and ended up in a dull marriage with Ken (Ian Holm). "I accept your condemnation," is Ken's sarcastic stock reply when Marion bickers with him. Gena made decisions with her head but wonders if she should, in retrospect, have used her heart instead.
We begin to see that Gena's assumptions about her carefully ordered life are not what she believes. People who know her consider her to be a bit of a snob. Even Laura (Martha Plimpton) her step-daughter, whom she is close to, resents her judgmental attitude when Marion catches her with a boyfriend.
Mia Farrow is very dependable as usual as Hope although she does seem to get a lot of existential Allen speeches about the unfairness/cruelty of the universe and life and death etc, the sort of stuff that sometimes sounds more convincing on paper than spoken by an actor. The scenes where Hope and Gena meet are quite interesting though and there is a twist, of sorts, at the end, which is reasonably satisfying as a resolution.
Elsewhere, Blythe Danner is very good as Marion's less reserved friend Lydia and John Houseman makes his last screen appearance as Marion's father. Ian Holm and Gene Hackman are solid in their respective roles and both play a key role in the end of the story. Both of these actors are always good in any film they pitch up in. Sandy Denis also does a good job as Marion's friend Claire. There is a good scene where Claire detects that Marion is flirting with her husband, which opens a few scars from the past.
A key character in Another Woman is Marion's brother Paul, played by Harris Yulin. Marion has not been close to her family and there is a scene where her brother reminds her that she once cruelly slated some writing he tried to do. Marion can't remember this incident at all, such is the emotional block she has imposed over the years. Another Woman is about Marion's journey into herself and her past in order to move forward. By the end of the film she begins to realise what the truly important things in life are, like family.
While Another Woman is not exactly scintillating entertainment and suffers somewhat from Allen shunning his ability to write jokes in order to be 'serious Woody' it does benefit from some lovely New York backdrops and a pleasant autumnal feel. Allen used Bergman's famous cinematograher Sven Nykist and decided that scenes would be shot 'out of sunlight'. Although this film has been called drab in appearance, I think the film has a specific look that fits in with the tone of Another Woman. Use of narration by Gena Rowlands is also welcome, as are the imaginative dream sequences that occur when Marion looks back on her life and reflects on how others really view her. One of these sequences takes the form of a play which is a clever idea and probably not a million miles away from how someone like the German poetry loving, highly educated Marion would daydream such thoughts.
Another thing which I quite like Another Woman for is the inclusion of an extract from Larry's novel, which of course was written by Woody Allen. It's a brief but enjoyable sample of what Woody Allen's work might be like were he to be writing novels instead of making films.
Overall, Another Woman is an interesting idea and Allen wisely opts not to outstay his welcome with the film clocking in at just 84 minutes. There is, of course, a carefully selected soundtrack and a good cast. It's certainly a more enjoyable and accessible experience than Allen's earlier 'September' although, ultimately, I'd rather have a few more films like Love and Death or Broadway Danny Rose. This is a middle ranking Allen film, not bad at all but comfortably below his very best work.
Don't expect much beyond a trailer because Woody Allen has zero interest in DVD extras,
A powerful, searing adult drama examining the life of an accomplished philosophy professor teetering on the brink of self-understanding.