Wednesday, February 9, 2011

656. MANHATTAN (1979)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Main Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep


Let me start out with one simple sentence...I love this film. Last night, I was able to give it another watch, for "1001" purposes and when I finished I had a thousand and one thoughts swirling through my head, regarding this movie. I only hope I can get it all straight and lay it down for you here.

This time around Woody Allen is Isaac Davis, an aspiring book writer, who is currently "wasting his life" writing, what his best friend calls "crap", for a comedic television show. He's involved in a relationship with Tracy (Hemingway), a girl twenty-five years his junior and his best friend is Yale (Murphy), whom he shares everything with. During a night out at dinner, Yale confesses to Isaac that he has been seeing someone else, a woman named Mary (Keaton), whom he claims to be very serious about. A few days later, while at an art gallery with Tracy, Isaac runs into Yale and Mary and after meeting Mary, decides that he despises her, mainly because she seems to have entirely different interests than him and because she mispronounces Vincent Von Gogh's name. Later in the film, they meet again and this time hit it off, walking through the streets of New York until the sun comes up and commencing underneath the 59th Street Bridge to watch the sunrise. Now Issac is in love with Mary, still has Tracy, whom he admittedly has a great time with, just feels guilty for even being with a seventeen year old and has a best friend who is also in love with the woman he's in love with. It's probably Allen's most serious film and one of my all-time favorites.


This film has, maybe, one of my favorite opening sequences of any film ever. The film starts with Isaac reading chapter one of his book. He keeps re-starting finding something wrong with the previous recital. He eventually finds the words he's looking for and fireworks explode over Manhattan as George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue blares in the background. Then we get into the meat and potatoes of the film and to me this is the most serious film Allen has ever done. There is comedy strung in there, but it's never used as the focal point of a scene and is the type of everyday humor that you would hear in day to day conversation. Speaking of day to day conversations, I love the dialogue here and here more than any other film, you can really pick up on Allen's knack for writing dialogue. It flows so naturally out of the mouths of these uptown New York intellectuals, that I felt like I was peering in on the lives of these people. When I watch "Manhattan" I feel like I shouldn't be getting this movie, like it's out of my league and these people are having such intelligent conversations, that I should be scratching my head. But, despite the fact that some of the references are lost on me, I do get the film for the most part and Allen makes me, so much, want to live in New York City, so that I can interact with people like this, even though they're not the most balanced people in the world.

I love how Allen examines relationships here, especially Isaac's. We see Isaac having such a great time with Tracy, a girl who is seventeen years old. They lie in bed together and eat Chinese food while watching old movies. They go for horse drawn carriage rides through Central Park and Isaac romances her, telling her that she's "God's answer to Job". But, despite all that, Isaac just can't comfortably commit to a girl twenty-five years younger than him, and thus pushes her away and breaks her heart. Instead, he decides to commit to Mary, a woman he met because she was his best friend's mistress and a woman he hated when he first met. He ultimately gets his heart stomped on by Mary and goes back to the woman who's heart he stomped in Tracy. And speaking of that, what a heartbreaking scene, when Isaac and Tracy break-up. I think Tracy was the character in the film that I could identify most with because I've been 17 years old and I know how attached you get to things at that age, especially in relationships. I nearly cried when Tracy started crying, because in a way, I could feel her pain.

I love that Allen went the black & white route with this film, as it gives us an old time feel in a very modern world and I honestly can't imagine this film being in color. The shots of New York City are sublime and watching this film makes me feel like I've visited NYC and been back to tell about it. Woody really takes you right into the heart of the city and busts open the psyche of some of it's characters, for us to muse at and be entertained by. Love this movie!

RATING: 10/10 Believe it or not folks, this isn't even my favorite Woody Allen film...but it is a damn good one and one that I recommend to anyone...even though I'm sure it won't be for everyone.


February 9, 2011 12:54pm

1 comment:

  1. Oh, a whole tranche of Allen's to read about! Very little chance of serious disagreements on most of these. Manhatten is wonderful, and so brave to go for B&W.. yet it totaly works.
    (Why of wht dose Allen hate it so much himself??)
    As you say, that opening sequence.. its magnificent.
    The only, only, teensyweensy agrument would be is Manhatten the best? A very closely fought position with Annie Hall.. no clear winner I'd say.


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