Manhattan (Woody Allen) 1979

It has been said that Woody Allen did not want this film to be released.  He supposedly offered to make another movie for free if they kept it on the shelf forever.  Now there is still speculation as to why he feels that way and Woody has never really given an adequate explanation beyond saying he didn’t like his acting in it.  Not only is this odd because Manhattan is the highest grossing Allen film ever (also many people’s favorite), but you figure out of the forty something films he’s made that he would feel a little more embarassed about some of the others that may come later in this retrospective.  But anyway, onto the review.

In Manhattan, Woody plays Isaac who is an author and writer for a television show.  He is currently dating a 17 year old named Tracy (Mariel Hemmingway) but things soon get more complicated.  His friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is having an affair with the intellectual Mary (Diane Keaton).  Isaac soon falls for Mary and tries to have a relationship with her.

Obviously I haven’t yet seen all of Woody Allen’s movies, but I doubt I will find one as beautifully made as this one.  This is all of his creative talents coming together.  The look of the movie and the black and white photography is gorgeous.  No matter what your opinion of New York is, he manages to make it look like one of the most romantic places on Earth.  Allen was experimenting with teh black and white and the Gershwin soundtrack but it completely works.  It further adds to the tone and the romanticism of everything that is going on.

Despite all the romance for the city, there is more melancholy in the human relationships.  The characters, despite bemoaning the fact their relationships stink, do not have a problem having affairs with others.  Yale is even shown to be content with dicking around his best friend.  Mary is someone who, despite being intellectual, admittedly has problems and does not plan further than a week or so.  Seemingly the only reason Issac is with Tracy is for some kind of ego boost.  Tracy looks up to Isaac and his intellect but he has no use for her as she gets quickly ignored in conversations.  When things go wrong, you can’t help but feel the characters dug themselves into those holes.

This movie is obviously also funny.  In addition to the witty dialog you have some other funny moments such as when we meet Mary’s ex (who was built up as a hearthrob/stud) is none other than Wallace Shawn.  Another is a subplot which involves Isaac’s ex writing a tell all book about Isaac and their relationship.

As I mentioned before, this is one of Woody Allen’s most popular films and there is good reason for it.  This is a movie which has top notch artistry along with a good blend of romance, drama, and humor.  If you have seen any of the other typical Allen films and liked them then you should go and check this one out (I don’t know why you wouldn’t have checked it out by now if that were the case).  Manhattan is one of the greats and worth a shot.


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