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Woody Allen once said that, whereas Scorsese had generated a host of
imitators, he had generated none. This may be true; films like
Manhattan certainly come along far too infrequently.
That this is such a gorgeous film may strike those following the
formulaic, Hollywood approach to cinema as strange and heretical. The
story is unexciting (restless male in love triangle), most of the
characters are unsympathetic, at least on the surface (particularly
Isaac), Allen leaves lose ends lying around all over the place, and
there's certainly no action (unless you count the
car-chase-without-a-chase-scene involving Diane Keaton, Woody Allen and
a VW Beetle).
So why should any self-respecting member of the MTV generation spend
time on this film? Well, here are a few reasons.
The script is wit of the highest order. This is not gag-a-minute humour
like Friends, but an altogether more acute art form stemming from
character, some wonderful dialogue and a fair amount of darkness (I
love the bit about Isaac trying to run over his ex-wife's lover). Allen
is also prepared to turn his biting satire to personal issues, such as
being Jewish. Just don't expect someone to look shrug their shoulders,
slap their forehead and with mid-rising intonation say d'uh! It's not
that kind of comedy.
Then there is the gorgeous cinematography. Woody loves Manhattan and
you can certainly tell. If there is one criticism of the film, it is
that it leaves a rather picture postcard impression of the city, but I
suppose if it's love, then it's love. Much of the film appears to have
been shot at either sunrise or sunset to soften the light, and there
are spectacular views of the towers, bridges and waterways of America's
Then, I suppose, there is the fact that Manhattan is probably the
archetypal Woody Allen film. Other films may be better, like Annie Hall
or Hannah and Her Sisters but, in Manhattan, all the elements of
Allen's style are in perfect balance. There's the jazz, the neurotic,
unsympathetic lead, the choice between stable and highly-strung women,
the self-mocking humour (hilariously done in the opening voice-over),
the railing against intellectual snobbery, the deep unease with popular
And there are great performances. Allen is at his most difficult and
in some ways his least likable. As Isaac, he's trying to do the right
thing, but is rarely selfless enough to follow through with it. Diane
Keaton is great as Mary, the lynchpin between the two love triangles
vain, pretentious and yet you can see why Isaac falls for her. Well,
all the actors are great, and very believable, but special mention must
go to Meryl Streep, who manages to steal the show with her tiny cameo
as Isaac's ex-wife, writing a book about their break-up and living with
their son and her lover. She is magnificent.
Of course, the film will also do nothing to dispel the popular rumour
that New Yorkers are neurotic, self-obsessed and self-indulgent at
least that narrow social circle Allen so often writes about. If you
don't mind that, though (and I'm English, so what do I care) you're in
for a treat. As with the city itself, the memories of this film will
stay with you forever.
Tags for Manhattan Full Movie
, Mariel Hemingway
, Michael Murphy
, Woody Allen
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