-“We had a hard time thinking of a title. And then felt “September” seemed to say the right thing, because it was taking place at the beginning of September, and September is sort of the time of life of the people. [break] They are entering, not the winter of their lives, but the fall of it.” –Woody Allen [4]

 

-Woody Allen decided to make the film for two main reasons. One was because he had always wanted to do a "chamber piece", a film with a small cast (there are only six principal characters, and only nine in the entire film) in a single location. The other was for the location itself, Mia Farrow's Connecticut country house, which inspired Woody Allen to write the screenplay with the intention that it would be shot at the house. [1]

 

-Strolling around Frog Hollow with Woody one day, [Mia] made an offhand remark that Chekhov had set his plays in a country house like hers. “This would make a great setting for a little Russian play or something.” She said. “It would be fun to shoot up here. The kids would love it.” [3]

 

-Unfortunately, by the time Allen finished the screenplay, it was winter and the location was unusable for a movie so firmly planted in September. The entire movie (which takes place in Vermont) was shot on a single soundstage (recreating to a degree, Mia’s house) at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York. [1]

 

-“It was very important, since the whole movie took place in the house, to provide the house with lots of perspectives that were interesting. I wanted to see deep all the time, that the rooms were not too flat off and separated from each other. And I wanted a warm colour for the house. That was important for me. It should be warm and homey. But the Key thig was that I wanted Santo to provide me with sufficient angles, so that you wouldn’t get bored with the house, or claustrophobic.” –Woody Allen [4]

 

- Allen's intention was that the production should feel like a play captured on film. For that reason, he generally shot in long, uninterrupted takes with very few close-ups. [1]

 

-[Woody] deliberately gave the film a senseless title “that doesn’t suggest anything to anybody until the movie’s over,” and to most viewers not even then. [3]

Critical Reception

 

-Nobody came to see “September” which closed in short order and left Woody feeling unusually battered. [3]

 

-“It’s in that [Chekhovian] genre, yes, It tries to evoke a similar atmosphere. But there a number of films that I’ve made where I knew before I made them that they would not be as popular here. I thought they might be critically popular, possibly, but would never catch the interest of a wider audience. One was “Stardust Memories,” “September” was another. And the “Shadows and Fog.” I knew that these three films were not what anybody cares to see here.” –Woody Allen [4]

 

- Movieline Magazine reported that as of 2011, September is Woody Allen's lowest-grossing movie (at only $486,484). [1]

 

-Stanley Kauffmann wrote sadly that the film was a drastic mistake, not worth making even once, not worth seeing, not worth reviewing. He felt sorry for Woody who wanted so badly to abandon comedy. [3]

 

-Pauline Kael called the picture “profoundly derivative and second-rate.” What a tragic waste of a career, she lamented; by placing a low value on his talent, by trying to imitate Chekhov, he had turned into “a pseud.” [3]

 

-One of the very few reviews to appreciate “September” was Roger Ebert, who thought Woody “as acute an author of serious dialogue as anyone now making movies.” In his opinion, there weren’t “that many people in America smart enough to appreciate a Woody Allen film.” [3]

 

-But yet, September sort of works in its own special way. Enough, at least, to rise about the low, low bar it has set for itself. It’s filled with familiar Woody Allen elements, but it’s unique enough in its approach that it earns its place within the Allen canon, if only as a footnote. [2]

 

- What the movie does have to offer are quiet moments and conversations that momentarily engage and mesmerize. A whispered conversation in the rain, for example. Or a physicist describing how his job gives him insight into the meaninglessness of life. Or a quietly forceful conversation about being strong enough to wake up each morning, even when everything seems hopeless. [2]

 

 

- If it sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, perhaps I am. I don’t want to understate the film’s best moments, but ultimately they’re shiny stickers on an empty vessel. For every sweet moment that caught me off-guard, there were many more where I rolled my eyes, scratched my head, or starting doing a mental calculation of how many times I’d heard that line or seen that exact character in some other Woody Allen movie. [2]

 

-EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com user David K. Barnes  commented, “ I've only seen it once and I seem to remember that I enjoyed watching it at the time but instantly forgot everything about it a few hours later.” [2]

 

-IMDB user connorratliff commented in 2007,

 

“If Woody Allen made this movie today, it would get great reviews and award nominations. It suffered by being made in the middle of a streak of hugely popular and wonderful films like Purple Rose Of Cairo, Hannah And Her Sisters and Radio Days. Now, he seems to no longer be capable of making that type of film (as proven by disasters like Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, and Anything Else), and seems to have taken a detour into British crime thrillers.”

 

“I liked Match Point well enough-- but I wish he would start making small-scale dramas about life at his age, and getting older. A film like September (or the even-better Another Woman) is exactly what he should be attempting at this stage of his life and career, and I think he could still do it, too. He's reached the point where his attempts at outright comedy are tending to fall flat, and that's normal-- most comic geniuses seem to be less and less inspired as they get older-- but I think he could still make a few more masterpieces if he got serious and dealt with themes that are closer to what he was doing with September. And a film like September-- essentially a filmed play on a soundstage-- wouldn't require him to load up on movie stars or write about characters in their 20s. His recent films have all be compromised by these trends, in order to keep making theatrical release films that get distribution. He should make movies for HBO, one a year, at a small budget, but with fewer compromises in terms of the type of movie he feels he has to write. [1]

 

-58% Rotten Tomatoes rating

"September" Screening Companion

-Released in United States December 18, 1987

-Runtime: 82 mins

-Production Company: Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions

-Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation

-Rated PG

- Budget $10 million

-Gross: $486,434 [1]

- Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

The Reshoot: “Two movies for the price of…two”

 

-“I was numb,” recalled Eric Pleskow, one of Orion officers. Just after News Year 1987, he learned that Woody wanted to scrap his new release, “September,” and start again from scratch because he was unhappy with several of the performances.  [3]

 

-The news sent shockwaves through the studio’s executive suites. Discarding a picture that had completed principal photograph was unusual, if not unheard of. It had never happened in Pleskow’s experience. On the other hand, when had Woody liked any of his pictures? At one point, intensely displeased with Manhattan, he offered Orion [UA] another film for free if they would agree to junk it. This time, however, he would not be talked out of his decision to shoot the picture twice. “Look at the body of work,” Pleskow said defensively years later. “We weren’t going to destroy a relationship over that one thing. “…There is no other Woody Allen. If you want to be associated with a man like that, you can’t apply the ordinary standards and rules of business.” [3]

 

-According to Mia Farrow's autobiography "What Falls Away", Woody Allen filmed two or three versions of every scene, took all of the footage into the editing suite, cut the film together and then decided that he hated it. He then rewrote the entire script, fired and recast virtually every major part, and re-filmed the entire thing. This meant that he doubled his production costs and came in well behind schedule. Allen was reportedly keen to do it all again for a third time. [1]

 

- Director Woody Allen cast and shot this film twice, without telling the original cast.

 

-“So I said to myself, ‘Well, as long as I’m going to do four weeks of re-shooting, why not re-shoot the whole thing and do it right?’ The set was right there, I didn’t have to go to 25 locations, the actors were minimal, it was a chamber piece. And I thought, ‘Why not do it right? I will cast different actors” –Woody Allen [4]

 

- In the re-shot version, Maureen O'Sullivan, Charles Durning and Sam Shepard were replaced by Elaine Stritch, Denholm Elliott and Sam Waterston respectively. [1]

 

- In addition to these replacements, there was one more that did not even make it through an entire shooting. At the very beginning of shooting, Christopher Walken played the role of Peter but Allen only shot a few scenes with him before he decided that he was wrong for the part. Walken was replaced by Sam Shepard who, in turn, was later replaced by Sam Waterston. [1]

 

-Once [Woody] have Shepard permission to improvise a speech, and the actor brazenly launched into a monologue about Montana. Woody almost blew a fuse. In private, he huffed to Dianne Wiest, who was playing Lane’s best friend, “Montana? Montana?” So such word was going to appear in his picture. [3]

 

-Maureen O’Sullivan, who was replaced by Elaine Stritch, is Mia Farrow’s mother (she would’ve played Farrow’s character’s mother in the film, as she did in Hannah and her Sisters). O’Sullivan, actually, was asked by Allen to be in the 2nd version of the film as well, but she was unable to, as she was suffering from pneumonia. [2] In other accounts, Woody says he wasn’t “happy with her performance.” [4] Once shooting was under way, Woody realized Maureen O’Sullivan was miscast. Spoiled and selfish in real life, she bore similarities to the character but failed to project those unpleasant qualities in her performance. It was an awkward situation, but reshooting meant he could oust Maureen. [4]

 

-No one will ever get to see “September 1.0.” Woody destroyed all of the footage. [3]

- At this point, Mia Farrow and Diane Keaton had been in an equal number of Woody Allen movies. [2]

 

-According to author Stig Bjorkman, “September’s” cinematographer Carlo Di Palma told him he considers the film to be “the best picture” he had made with Woody. [4]

 

-[SPOILERS] If you’re curious, Woody Allen once explained what happens to these characters after the movie: Lane flounders and never finds herself; Stephanie goes back to her husband and “lives out the rest of her years in a kind of functional, mechanical marriage"; Harold remains lonely; Peter goes home “thinking that he had met somebody nice but that nothing is going to happen"; Lane’s mother “manages to sail through these things.” Cheery! [2]

Trivia

 

- “September” is a retelling of Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya. [2]

 

- One of the main plot thrusts of "September" is taken from the life of Lana Turner, whose daughter killed her gangster lover in the 50s. [1]

 

-Although Woody says, “I wasn’t inspired by it, I was aware of it. No, because that happened many, many, many years ago. Maybe the slightest bit, but not much. Again I was manufacturing a plot, The origin of it was more to find something that would work at that house in the country.” –Woody Allen [4]

 

- This is Dianne Wiest’s 4th straight appearance in a Woody Allen movie, but her last until 1994. [2]

[1] - imdb.com

[2] – Every Woody Allen Movie web site

[3] – The Unruly Life of Woody Allen by Marion Meade

[4] – Woody on Woody In Conversation with Stig Bjorkman