MANHATTAN

(1979)
With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep
Co-written and Directed by Woody Allen
Reviewed by JB

     The followup to Woody's breakthrough comedy ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN remains one of the actor - director's most admired films.  Shot in beautiful black and white by cinematographer Gordon Willis and featuring a gorgeous soundtrack comprised of George Gershwin melodies, MANHATTAN clearly displays a director who is finally taking the idea of making movies seriously.

     Yet, despite all the praise heaped on this film over the years, I still prefer the "earlier, funny" films or even some of the lighter late ones such as MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY or SCOOP.  While the movie is beautifully shot, the story is still about a handful of pretentious middle-aged Manhattanites who are self-centered, neurotic, narcissistic and just plain annoying.  This may be the whole point of the film - in the end, Woody's character stops in the middle of dictating an oh-so-hip-it-hurts list of what makes life living, suddenly realizing that all the bull in his psyche has faded away leaving the one true thing in his life shining through.  But, given how messy Allen's later life became, it is a little difficult to swallow his sexual relationship here with a seventeen year old girl (a star making turn by Mariel Hemingway), especially when none of his friends even blink an eye at it.  Statutory rape, anyone?

    At the same time, the film is loaded with more good throwaway lines than anything since the heyday of W. C. Fields, so for fans who love Woody Allenisms, MANHATTAN is a treasure chest of lines and gags ("I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.")

    A classic in 1979, less of one today, but certainly one of Allen's milestones, and as such, worth revisiting. 3½ - JB

Woody Allen     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


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