North Texas Daily

Review: Thirty-five years on, “Manhattan” sparkles

Review: Thirty-five years on, “Manhattan” sparkles

June 19
14:57 2013

James Clay / Intern

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Iconic director Woody Allen, who last made waves with 2011’s acclaimed “Midnight in Paris,” is quite literally in love with New York City, and his 1979 film “Manhattan” was certainly meant to be a love letter to that city. This effort is a near perfect film with a charismatic cast led by Allen and Diane Keaton, who also appeared as Allen’s love interest in 1977’s “Annie Hall.” Featuring beautiful black and white cinematography and Allen’s signature neurotic dialogue, this fabulous entry in Allen’s filmography has become a contemporary classic.

The story of “Manhattan” follows Allen’s 42-year-old divorced comedy writer Isaac Davis, who is currently dating Tracy – a high-school student played by a fresh-faced Mariel Hemingway, who would later appear in 1997’s “Deconstructing Harry.” As he tries to address the dramatic age gap between the two, Allen instead finds love in his best friend’s mistress, Mary Wilkie, portrayed by Keaton.

Old Hollywood cinematographer Gordon Willis, who also shot the “Godfather” trilogy, paints an idealistic view of the city with beautiful silhouetted montages of Manhattan’s architecture. Allen’s choice to shoot the film in black and white enhances the romance of the city.

Allen and his group of self-proclaimed intellectual friends apply this same idealism about New York City to their personal lives. Allen suggests that they wish their love life could be as perfect as the way they perceive the city.

Keaton as a leading lady was a big part of Allen’s success in the 1970‘s. “Manhattan” marked the sixth Keaton-Allen film collaboration, and their romance is as entrancing as ever. Keaton’s portrayal of Wilkie has it all, with beauty, wit and intellect, but despite her charm, she scoffs when Davis compliments her on her positive traits, claiming that “being pretty is just so subjective.” It’s nearly impossible not to develop a crush on Wilkie throughout the course of the film’s 96-minute runtime.

Davis is a self-critique of Allen’s neurotic, paranoid persona. This all-too-familiar schtick stays fresh and hilarious, and fans of Allen’s other acting efforts will thoroughly enjoy watching him chew up the scenery.

For the film’s score, Allen uses compositions from legendary jazz composer and fellow New Yorker George Gershwin. Led by Gershwin’s epic composition “Rhapsody in Blue,” the music amplifies the beauty of the island of Manhattan. Though Gershwin died before the release of the film, it sounds like he could have written these pieces specifically for its soundtrack.

All in all, “Manhattan” is a small story, but Allen brings depth to the film, making for an epic tale about the city that never sleeps. Fans of classic independent cinema will love this film.

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