My wife and I own—with perhaps the exception of one or two titles—all of Woody Allen’s films on DVD. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ve actually watched all of them. We have favorites, for example, that have endured multiple viewings—Husbands and Wives and Matchpoint—and others that neither of us have seen at all. This weekend, we picked out one of those never-before-seen films, Another Woman (1988).
Another Woman is as strong as any of Allen’s top-list films. As a Woody Allen fan, I’m actually ashamed that it has bypassed me until now. Allen himself doesn’t actually appear in the film, and there are a lot of uncharacteristic of Allen elements at work (no joke-for-joke’s sake one liners, and aside from the ironic foibles of the characters, little or no comedy of any kind). In short, this is a drama.
The set-up is spectacularly clever. The drama surrounds a woman who has just turned fifty. In order to write a book and have some solitude for concentration, she rents a space that happens to be next door to a therapist’s office, and through the vent, she starts to eavesdrop on the lives of people coming to talk to him. One woman in particular (played by Mia Farrow) catches her attention because she seems to be rehearsing to the therapist not just her own thoughts, but the secret thoughts of the 50-year-old woman. It’s thus through the triggering voice of the overheard “other woman” that we find the 50-year-old woman engaging in flashbacks about her own life. The 50-year-old woman’s life (she is a philosophy professor who never had children) is gone over in such a way that, by the end of the film, we care deeply about her as a character. And along the way she has flashes of insight about her life that are stunning.
Anyway, if you’ve never seen this gem, and you like Woody Allen films generally, this is a delightful (and sometimes uncomfortable to watch) film.
Here’s a scene from the film:
And here’s a link to Rilke’s poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo”: