One of the most stunningly beautiful to look at films of the last 50 years, made with great wit, and full of strong
observations about loss, aging, and how we lie to ourselves.
But, personally, It doesn't quite rise to the level of `Annie Hall' for me in terms of timelessness or emotional impact.
It's a film I deeply admire, respect, see why others have it on their '10 best of all time' lists, etc. but feel guilty
that I can't unreservedly love. Somehow all the adult characters' self-obsessed narcissism keeps me at arms length.
I identify with moments, but -- unlike 'Annie Hall' - not the whole.
That said, it's strengths are so strong, and it has affected so many so deeply that its any film lover owes themselves
the chance to see. Among other things, Gordon Willis' photography will leave you with
images you'll never forget.
And as nice as the DVD transfer was, the beautiful new blu-ray goes it one better. This film has a depth
and immediacy on blu-ray that rivaled my memories of seeing it for the first time on the big screen. Of
course, as always with Woody, there are still no real extras, but these images are so great, that you
owe yourself the blu-ray version.
on July 3, 2004
Woody Allen made a pictoric statement ; an artistic gift of countless carats ; an etarnal portrait for the next generations who will watch this picture with the same devotion we have in front a masterpiece in the Metropolitan , Louvre or any other prestigious museum in the world.
The story turns as a leit motive in many films of this clever film maker , about the disturbing relationship between two lovers , the loneliness , the no sense living who seems work out for many people in a city as NY that owns the sublime virtue of being capable of renovating to itself from time to time . This is the clue why we love so much this unique city .
The opening shots shows Allen who is left by his wife (Meryl Streep) for another woman ; this bitter sight is linked with the fact Woody falls in love with a teenager that it might be well his own daughter (Mariel Hemingway) ; notice this relationship is built for the Pygmalion effect. She admires him and eventually falls in love with him when she compares his rich gaze about the world with the routiny of her friends ; flat and deepless.
In the middle of this emotional chaos the rendezvous to NYC emerges from time to time with unforgettable images . Gordon Willis stole the show with this arresting landscapes. He caught the mythical essence of this caleidoscopic city: irreverent , creative , seductive , challenging but fascinating . However Allen knew show the viewer the underestimated wonderful treasures that by one or several reasons some proportion of the people who lives there it doesn't seem to realize . Once more the sight of an artist is to make open the eyes and alterate the usual perspectives of the reality , creating a new one.
And Allen made it . Bravo!
on April 10, 2004
There's a scene in this film where Woody Allen is lying on his couch, lethargic and immensely depressed. He's talking into a tape recorder, and he says something along the lines of, "I'm thinking about writing a short story about people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these real, unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves, because it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe." What an interesting issue he's preparing to approach in his latest work of art. And purposefully (for obvious reasons), that quote sums up the entire film.
Manhattan surrounds the lives of Isaac (Woody Allen), his ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), his best friend Yale (Michael Murphy), his seventeen-year-old girlfriend Tracy (the Oscar-nominated Marial Hemmingway), Yale's wife (Anne Byrne Hoffman), and, of course, Yale's mistress Mary (the wonderful Diane Keaton). One day, Isaac and Tracy are on a date and they come across Yale spending the day with Mary. And that's what starts it all. At first Isaac despises Mary's overbearing, free personality. But eventually he runs into her again and he gives her a chance, walking home with her after a gala. And the two become great friends, leading to something more, causing an entire love triangle to form, affecting every character in the film in different ways. But of course, that's not all there is to it.
The love triangle between Mary, Isaac and Yale is a vehicle for studying the behavioral habits of Isaac, the film's main focus. He is an intensely neurotic man who, like he says at one point in the film, fixates on smaller problems in order to rid his mind of the larger ones he is afraid to face. But as the love triangle progresses, falls apart, nearly comes back together, then falls apart again, he transforms into another man at the end. And the way Woody Allen carefully (and in a very clever way) tells the tale and explains the change is so utterly original and touching that it will leave you breathless.
That is, of course, the high point of the film: its screenplay. There are so many brilliantly subtle jokes and so many of Isaac's mannerisms made fun of and focuses upon that the smile will never leave your face. It is also full of artistic maturity and integrity which Allen, in his early days (apparently), never ceased to express. Not once does he stray from the purpose of the film. Nor does he create unnecessary or cliche plot points or become dishonest in any way. He remains true to himself and the the world. And what strengthens the writing are the wonderful performances from every person in the cast.
Of course, Marial Hemmingway was nominated for the Oscar. And although she was great, the truly wonderful performance in this film was Diane Keaton's as the confused, newly-divorced Mary. She is so precise with her emotions, but reveals so many shades and builds upon the already realistic depth of Allen's screenplay. She should have been nominated for the Oscar. Also noticeably great was, of course, Woody Allen himself, who is always wonderful. Another character clearly and beautifully conveyed in the film is the city of New York.
The widescreen, black-and-white cinematography by Gordon Willis is stunning, and matches the overall tone of the film perfectly. Also complementing the photography and personality of the film is the music scattered throughout, all written by George Gershwin (the film even opens up with the commanding sound of "Rhapsody in Blue").
So as you turn off your television and relax after having finished Manhattan, you are sure to be filled with amazement at how honest, witty and glorious the film is, with the clear knowledge that Woody Allen is a pure genius.
on September 22, 2003
I have seen a dozen or so movies that come very close to capturing the true art of filmmaking, but this one nails it. Woody Allen's genius is all here, spread before us in a rich tapestry that validates in one perfect effort the suspicions that we have from watching his other films.
The story is set on a lush canvas of Gordon Willis cinematography and George Gershwin score, and you are carried sweetly into the sublime swirl of New York City from the first rhapsodic blend of music, monologue and images. For those who love New York (and those who may never see it) it should be known that the quintessence of the City is precisely captured here in sound, light, and character.
True to form, Allen strings his instrument with the requisite elements of life and relationships-- love, romance, friendship, betrayal, and essential insecurity-- and plucks them in perfect harmony. In subtle brilliance, he does not lead you directly in this film, but allows you to go looking on your own volition for his simmering meaning of love and life. The camera is a poignant voyeur as Allen's character searches earnestly (and obstinately) for answers to the wrong questions. He is confounded but for the allure of the pure and benevolent Mariel Hemingway, who plays the angelic savior of his soul.
In the end, the ultimate message that Woody's character learns in Manhattan is the same rich reward that we earn from our experience in watching this movie... that hope, patience, and faith are the virtues that always keep their promises.
on July 4, 2003
In many ways "Annie Hall" is Woody Allen's signature film, but I think "Manhattan" is the better movie. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a forty-something writer with a teenage girlfriend, Tracy, (Mariel Hemingway in an excellent performance) and a lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep in a small role). His best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is having an affair with the bitter, intellectual Mary (Diane Keaton). Predictably, she and Isaac despise each other at first and then fall in love. Although Isaac chooses her over Tracy, dismissing the latter as just a kid, he later comes to regret the decision.
Besides being wonderful in the areas of acting, writing, and directing, "Manhattan" is a real treat to look at. The black and white photography by Gordon Willis gives the film an old-fashioned look. This, along with the classical soundtrack, creates a romantic, idealistic feel that clashes with the characters' coarse language and often amoral behavior. The look of the film, and the soundtrack, represent how Isaac wants to see his city ("he idolized it all out of proportion"), in contrast to how it really is.
Without giving anything away, the conclusion is absolutely sublime and perfectly ambiguous, with Isaac being asked to do the one thing that may be impossible for him. You'll see what I mean.
It may take a while to get really involved in the movie but once you do, it will charm you and break your heart. Essential for any lover of film.
on June 7, 2003
Though some people are partial to ANNIE HALL, which is an excellent film, I'll take MANHATTAN. I mean, the Gershwin music is amazing. The black-and-white cityscape cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and it fills up the frame so completely that the film is impossible to watch without widescreen formatting. As for the story, it's another convoluted Woody Allen piece, where the characters likely think too much for their own good.
Allen plays a writer struggling with, among other things, abandoning his job with a TV show that's just not funny, his girlfriend who's still in high school and his lesbian ex-wife's new tell-all book about their marriage. Things get more complicated when he finds out that his best friend has recently taken up an extramarital affair with a completely unbearable woman, played by Diane Keaton. Of course, Allen discovers over time that she might not be that bad.
This is the film which showed that Allen was capable of more than one truly great piece of serious cinema.
And with Meryl Streep and Mariel Hemingway turning in winning roles on top of all that, you'll quickly find yourself in love with this movie.
on June 2, 2003
I liked this movie so much when it came out that I almost immediately went out and saw it again. It remains today almost as fresh and marvelous as when I first saw it. Partly the reason for this is the incredibly crisp, beautiful black and white photography, which lends the film a kind of timelessness. The cinematography also is remarkable for being filmed in the widest film ratio (2.35:1), the only time that Woody Allen has used this ratio. He almost always uses 1.85:1. The greatest thing about the photography and the wider ratio is that Allen is able to use it to show effectively the enormous love he has for his home city. In no movie has Manhattan been portrayed so beautifully or exhilaratingly.
MANHATTAN was one of two transition films for Woody Allen. Along with ANNIE HALL and INTERIORS, he made the move from purely comic director to a more serious filmmaker. Although my own bias is in favor of the earlier, funnier Allen, I do dearly love both ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. In these two films he struck a perfect balance between laughs and seriousness. Too many of his later efforts lean too heavily in the serious direction.
The cast, like most Woody Allen films, is absolutely first rate. Ever since ANNIE HALL, Allen has had a genius for having actors and actresses in some of their earliest roles before going on later to become well known or even better known. This film was Meryl Streep's second major film appearance (after DEER HUNTER the previous year) and it was the first major role for Mariel Hemingway, who was just transcendently beautiful in this film. Diane Keaton, of course, had appeared in several of Woody Allen's films when they were romantically involved, but thankfully this didn't keep them from working together on additional films.
As a one-time would-be Kierkegaard scholar, I have always been keenly attuned to film or any other cultural references to him, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out that this film contains a brief discussion of his thought much to my delight, and much better one than the rather bizarre quotation from Kierkegaard in Chinese in WAYNE'S WORLD.
The use of Gershwin is just exquisite. Beautiful music used in a very beautiful film.
When Woody Allen won the Oscar (in abstentia) for writing and directing "Annie Hall," which also won the Oscar for Best Picture, it was assumed the stand-up comic turned auteur had reached the pinnacle of his career. Then Allen proceeded to go out and make an even better film with his next effort, "Manhattan." Filmed in glorious black & white (and widescreen) by the great cinematographer Gordon Willis, the opening sequence combining indelible images of New York City with Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is a paean to city Allen loves and the most rhapsodical sequence in any of his films.
Rather than talking about the plot per se, "Manhattan" is best explained as a convoluted series of wrecked and ruined relationships centering around Allen's character, Isaac Davis. Isaac is divorced from Jill (Meryl Streep), who is now living with Connie (Karen Ludwig), and planning to write an expose on her marriage. Isaac is having an affair with 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), but then he meets Mary (Diane Keaton), the mistress of his best friend Yale (Michael Murphy), who is married to Emily (Anne Byrne). Ultimately, however, this is not a film about love, but rather a film about loss, because you just know that forced to make choices, Isaac is going to make the wrong ones. Tracy and Mary are characters constructed as such polar opposites and it never dawns on Isaac to focus more on what each has than on what they lack.
Of course, today this film is obviously open to reinterpretation given Allen's very public personal life and it is now assumed that the Isaac-Tracy relationship was a sign of things to come rather than a dramatic construction. If you can get away from the film's Freudian implications then you can appreciate Hemingway's Oscar nominated performance, which is not only at the heart of the film but provides its heart as well. In contrast, Keaton's Mary is rather soulless (the anti-Annie Hall if you will). When the choice is so clear the fault is clearly not in the women, but rather in the character of Isaac (or lack of character, as the case might be). The ending is certainly the most bitter sweet of any Allen film to date.
Most Romantic Lines (remember, this is a Woody Allen film): (1) "I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics"; (2) "Yeah! I can tell, a lot. That's, well, a lot is my favorite number", and, of course, (3) "Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um...Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh...Like what... okay...um...For me, uh... ooh... I would say ... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh...um... and Willie Mays... and um ... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony ... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues ... um ... Swedish movies, naturally ... Sentimental Education by Flaubert ... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra ... um ... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh...the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face ..."
If you enjoyed "Manhattan" then check out these other films on the AFI's list of 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time: #11 "Annie Hall," #25 "When Harry Met Sally," and #35 "Gigi." Why? The first because it is also Woody Allen, the second because it also takes place in NYC and involves making the wrong choice and then running to the woman to do something about it, and the third because it also thanks heaven for little girls...
on May 10, 2002
It makes me sad (not to mention angry) that some people make the statement that this movie is about "a child molestor." The same people who say this are the ones that praise "There's Something About Mary" and "American Pie" for it's "comic innovativeness." This is NOT a documentary, it is simply a situation, and Tracy (the girl) was not forced into her position as girlfriend--it is a choice. Let's not forget this was the 70s, and while that's not an excuse, shame on those who imply that this beautiful movie is simply about a man and an underage girl.
That said, this is one of the most gorgeous movies ever made. Although "Hannah and Her Sisters" is probably my favorite Woody Allen movies, this is Allen's cinematic masterpiece. Words can't describe how beautiful the lights of Manhattan look as they sparkle through the trees in Central Park. But the acting shines as well. Diane Keaton is both hilarious and sad as a neurotic woman who is so full of herself and yet so unlucky in love; Woody Allen plays a divorced, neurotic man (shocker. . .); and while Mariel Hemingway isn't terrible, the tone of her voice and her manner did grate on my nerves a little. . .but that didn't ruin the movie at all. She is the voice of reason not only to Issac (Allen's character) but for the entire film.
It's a true testament to the genius of Allen that his movies, which usually end so sad, can still fill you with hope. It's as if he's telling the audience that it's the journey, not the destination, that's important. Everything about "Manhattan" shines, even after more than 20 years. I highly suggest this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it.
on May 3, 2002
Most people have a love/hate relationship with their hometown. Only Woody Allen has put his relationship on film and set it to the music of George Gershwin. In his 1979 release "Manhattan," Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a writer who's watching his life fall apart. He writes for a TV show, but quits over the the quality of the skits. His ex-wife, Jill (Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar that year for "Kramer Vs. Kramer"), who left Isaac for another woman, has written a tell-all book about their marriage that is very unflattering to Isaac. The 42-year-old Isaac is involved with Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), who's 25 years his junior, yet shares his tastes and says she thinks she loves him. Isaac constantly discourages this talk, even though Tracy wants him to live with her in London, where she's planning to study once she turns eighteen.
His best friend, a teacher and writer named Yale (Michael Murphy, who co-starred with Allen in "The Front"), is having a secret affair with another writer, Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton). Mary, though, wants to know if Yale will choose her or his wife, Emily (Anne Byrne). On a restless Sunday where Yale is away with Emily, Mary gets Isaac to go out with her, though nothing intimate happens. Later, Yale breaks up with Mary, who turns to Isaac, even though Isaac is constantly perplexed by Mary's tastes and attitudes ("I'm from Philadelphia. We believe in God," is one of Mary's statements). Isaac wants what he cannot get - the upper hand in a relationship.
"Manhattan" is a wonderful study of parallels and contradictions, as well as a funny and insightful look at the "Me Generation" of the seventies. Both Isaac and Yale have great soulmates, yet they want something else. Both seem destined to create heartbreak for themselves and for their loved ones, even though the twice-divorced Isaac tells Tracy at one point, "People should mate for life, like pigeons and Catholics." Just like Mary wants to impose her intellectual standards on everyone, Isaac wants to impose his way of living on both Tracy and Jill. Isaac describes Manhattan as his metaphor for a decaying culture and lowering of intellectual standards, yet he cannot imagine living anywhere else. Like "Annie Hall," we see a man looking at life, love, and relationships, yet still grasping to learn from his mistakes. "Manhattan," though, is more present tense and more serious than "Annie Hall."
The late seventies marked a period of great growth for Allen as an artist. In the drama "The Front," he showed he could integrate his screen persona with somebody else's words. In "Interiors," he showed he was equally capable of creating a moving, serious film of his own. "Annie Hall" mixes wit and wisdom as well as I've seen the two mixed. "Manhattan" shows Allen improving the look and the sound of his pictures. Gordon Willis creates beautiful black and white imagery, especially in the opening and closing montages. I also enjoyed the shots of Isaac and Mary at the planetarium and enjoying a sunrise. The Gershwin tunes on the soundtrack are lovingly conducted by Zubin Metha and Michael Tilson Thomas.
While Allen brought in actors like Keaton and Murphy, who worked well with Allen before, he also gave Streep and Hemingway (in an Oscar-nominated performance) some great exposure early in their film careers. Streep is cold and angry as Jill, and some of it is understandable because Isaac wants to be controlling, even though they're no longer married. Jill's stares at Isaac seem to jump right out of the screen to grab attention. Hemingway comes across as the person with her head on the straightest. Tracy is sweeter and smarter than Isaac deserves. I like that Tracy knows what she wants, and repeatedly tells that to Isaac, who seems to be deaf to her arguments. Other performers have notable cameos, such as Karen Allen ("Animal House") and David Rasche ("Sledge Hammer") as actors on the show where Isaac works. Wallace Shawn ("My Dinner With Andre") appears as Mary's ex-husband, Jeremiah, who is described by his ex as dominating, but comes across as anything but that. Bella Abzug, who represented New York in the seventies in Congress and was at the forefront for equal rights for women, is the guest speaker at a party attended by Isaac and Mary.
As the seventies ended, so did Allen's creative partnerships with two people who helped make his films so memorable. "Manhattan" marked the last appearance of Keaton in an Allen film until "Radio Days" eight years later. Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote this film, "Annie Hall," and "Sleeper" with him, turned to directing himself in the eighties, though none of his efforts ("Simon," "Lovesick," and "The Manhattan Project") are nearly as memorable as his work with Allen. However, Brickman and Allen collaborated again on Allen's 1993 film, "Manhattan Murder Mystery," which starred Allen and Keaton. It seemed like they were never really away.
"Manhattan" is a successful marriage of comedy, drama, and images of a place that has meant a great deal to Allen. The image that struck me the most in my most recent viewing of the film was the one of fireworks in the Manhattan night sky. It's a sign of happier times in a place that came under such a terrible attack. Like Isaac, Manhattan is now in a state of recovery. Someday, people will celebrate such a sight in that sky again. Until then, we have these pictures and stories that seem so far away now.