Thursday, 22 October 2015

I've Just Seen: Manhattan (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

Director: Woody Allen

I had seen Manhattan several years ago, before I started to want more than entertainment from films. I had liked it, but much preferred Annie Hall. Having re-watched it, now older, wiser and generally more snobbish in my film tastes, this is now a close second for my favourite Woody Allen film.

From the opening sequence, one of the best in film history, to the melancholic but perfect ending, this film is a joy. Funny, romantic and painful, often all at once, it has some of the best acting in any Allen film. When I first watched it, I didn't really like Mariel Hemingway's Tracy (why I don't know). This time around, I see she is the most mature of all the characters, despite her relative youth. Her quiet pain when Isaac breaks up with her is the most moving moment in the film. Diane Keaton's Mary matches Allen's Isaac in the neurotic stakes, her disparaging comments about almost everything Isaac likes are hilarious.

The film looks beautiful, with its black-and-white cinemtography. Frankly, more romantic comedies (or just films) should be in BW. Here it shows off New York at its most beautiful, particularly in the opening sequence; it is the great love of Isaac's life. The music adds to the romance of the film; Gershwin knew how to elite emotions, and the swells of Rhapsody in Blue set the tone early on. Both these elements give an old Hollywood feel to what is a New Hollywood film.

After the recent disappointment of Magic in the Moonlight, it was a joy to revisit Allen at his heights. When he is off, he is average; when great, one of the best filmmakers in film history. Not bad for someone who delights in the much maligned romantic comedy genre!


  1. Yeah. This is a great movie. The best parts are the scenes with Meryl Streep! The first time I saw it (I had come across it on cable and hadn't seen the credits) I wondered who that really funny actress was, the one that looked like Meryl Streep.

    Annie Hall is my favorite Woody Allen film but Manhattan is among the five or six (or seven) films tied for second place. I've been wanting to see Stardust Memories again.

    1. Yeah, I'm with you about Annie Hall and then a few grouped in second; along with this, Hannah and Her Sisters, Sleepers and Love and Death would be up there.