Manhattan (1979) Directed by Woody Allen

I know for Astrid, Woody Allen supplies the definitive spark of cinema excellence. She could easily pick ten Woody movies as some of her favorites. Manhattan represents Woody's most idealized portrait of New York, something that Astrid also relates to. Gershwin and that Skyline.

Sometimes, what we need and what's best for us is right under our noses. Things often look better than they really are from an observational vantage, yet intimate involvement can lead to disappointment. Isaac (Allen) has a good thing going with the young Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), but his own doubts, narcissism and self indulgence leads him to get involved with the troubled Mary (Diane Keaton) and dump the supportive Tracy. It's no surprise that the 17-year-old Tracy is the most level headed, astute and mature character on display in Manhattan. The middle aged characters of Manhattan have all lost their way and breed cynicism.

Manhattan displays some of Allen's sharpest lines, it's a witty picture. But it is the look of the film, wonderfully photographed by Gordon Willis in chromatic black and white that improves this film with every viewing. It's easily Allen's most cinematic picture, some of the images here have seeped into popular culture (Allen and Keaton sitting on a bench by Queensborough Bridge for example). So amongst the pondering, broken relationships, the absolute sense of doing good by our friends, Manhattan adds the pleasure of letting us dream. That dream is a picture of New York that only exists in the director's head, and spending time in that dream is a joy.

I'm finding it difficult to have anything interesting to say about my favorite films. The problem is that when I love something it is such a non-verbal experience of emotions. Seriously though, I am more ambitions than simply exclaiming: it's just fantastic! I just love it! There has to be a reason why I relate to Manhattan, Allen and Keaton. I even spent ten years playing the clarinet – but never got to swing or ragtime (which is probably why I no longer play).

So here we go: I like depictions of neurotic people. I like quirks, fears, faults, awkwardness, messiness, particularity, inconsistency and the incredible human capacity to survive and make jokes.
Note that I like depictions of these things. In my everyday life I find myself often quite unsympathetic to the above human qualities.

Yet, there is something endlessly familiar in Allen's perspective to exploring the human condition. I relate to his concern and anger about death, his obsession with romantic love, and art as the content that makes life worth living.

I used to take life very seriously and humor tended to make me uncomfortable as it usually poked lightly at issues I deemed serious. Woody Allen's humor, though, I have learned to enjoy. Watching Manhattan I laughed out loud many times and felt safe in the laughter.

Manhattan portrays New York City more beautifully than many other iconic films located in the city. Here, the city is not only a set but a character. Allen is even able to further plot by showing us landscapes of the city while we hear the main characters talking to each other.

I'll end with the most personal point:
There are two male characters who act as points of comparison to any male that appears in my life in whatever role: Muumipappa (Moomin Papa) and Woody Allen. My grandfather, father, boyfriend and everyone else can score points by bringing to my mind either Muumipappa or Woody. I'm not sure how much they have scored over the years, if at all. It is just my projection of the ideal.


  1. This is such a great idea for a blog? I love it. And, I LOVE Woody Allen.


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