In an open letter written in February 2014, Dylan Farrow writes, "Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the surviors of sexual assault and abuse." Challenging such a truth is, I am not a fan of Woody Allen and aside from ANNIE HALL, have not sought out to view his work. And yet, I've made a calculated choice to watch his 1988 film ANOTHER WOMAN. I do this for Gena Rowlands.
Marion (Gena Rowlands), an accomplished woman who is on sabbatical from being dean of philosophy at a women's college, is writing a book in a rented office all in peace, until one day she overhears voices from the next door psychiatrist's office through her ventilation duct. She places two couch cushions to muffle the sound and viola an easy fix. But as we learn, the recently turned 50 Marion, is revisiting crucial moments throughout her life, opening the melancholy door of regret. Doing the "what if I made this choice instead of that choice" dance, which is indicative to anyone who finds themselves aging. Her first husband passed away, and she meets her second husband, Ken while he was still married but also has a deep friendship with Ken's closest friend, Larry played by Gene Hackman. Larry confesses his love for her, but she's made up her mind in marrying Ken and sadly rejects him.
As she thinks back on this moment, while her present marriage is eroding, there's this juxtaposition of realization that her family and friends don't think that highly of her. The deeper she unfolds these truths, more unravels, and I marvel at how she keeps her composure through it all. Everything is rationalized in an evaluative manner. Gena plays this role almost effortlessly which is jarring to me as I'm used to seeing her play unhinged characters in most of Cassavetes' films. So this is a pleasant detour, certainly highlighting her extensive strength and dynamic abilities as an actor.
The crux of it all is centered around the mystery woman's voice Marion hears through her air vent. We learn the woman is a patient at the psychiatrist's office. She is Hope (Mia Farrow), a lost, pregnant, and introspective woman who's going through some emotional crisis. At one point Marion visits an antique store and hears a woman sobbing, and it's Hope. Marion consoles her and convinces to have lunch with her and it's the most heartbreaking scene of the whole film, which is amazingly framed by cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, who also shot Andrei Tarkovsky's SACRIFICE as well as Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA, and HOUR OF THE WOLF.
I see semblance in Marion's sense of uncertainty, harmonizing with the lonesomeness in Alexander's will to forgo everything in his life in order for his family to survive in Tarkovsky's SACRIFICE. Both of these characters contemplate a life where past decisions and mortality intersect with deep regret underlining some burst of drastic measures to ensure one's existence wasn't in vain. Striving and succeeding for a life of ambition, recognition, and stature would lead one to believe as fulfilling and yet from Hope's perspective in discussing with her doctor, she states, " I guess you can't keep deep feelings closed out forever, you know, so... I just don't want to look up when I'm her age and find my life empty." Ouch! But in a way don't we all feel this on some level? We all want reassurance that we didn't waste our lives pursuing something that ends up not being fulfilling? Perhaps, the sooner we come to this fork in the road and drastically strive to change we leap into the unknown where creativity, spontaneity, and joy are born.
Alas, one of my favorite shots is the restaurant scene, where Marion is sitting there with a bottle of wine almost as if she's talking to herself but we know Hope is sitting across from her, deliberately obscured from our view and why? Marion's facing an aspect of her life through Hope's uncertainty and emotional disposition. Later on that day when Marion returns to her office, she overhears Hope tell her doctor, " She can't allow herself to feel. And the result is she's led this cold, cerebral life. And it alienated everyone around her." Woof! That's awfully judgey. And given this perception from an outsider who has zero affiliation with nor any beforehand knowledge of who she is as a person. It's like if a workmate, condescendingly mansplains something you're keenly aware of given your years of experience, makes you ponder if it's one's own way of pontificating obnoxious percipience concealing the vague veneer of inferiority or they're just being judgey. It begs the question how often people judge one another based on either spot on observation, gut instinct, or perhaps safeguarding a past trauma impacting one's skewed perception based on one's understanding of a particular situation. Everybody is human and we all judge whether we like to admit it or not, in some form or another it occurs whether we recognize or ignore it, it happens nonetheless.
All of this film feels like a critical assessment of one's existence, in how people swing in and out of relationships, friendships, not realizing the impact it makes, good or bad until one day your life goes to shit. Anyways, I'm a big fan of Gena Rowlands and her performance was worth the watch.