Favorite Film Friday: Manhattan

Manhattan tells the story of a group of dysfunctional Manhattanites who grapple with love in the big city. It also contains some of the most beautiful opening lines in cinema history. When I was younger I used to try and memorize them.

“He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion…no make that romanticized it all out of proportion. To him no matter what the season was this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the tunes of George Gershwin.”

It’s simply beautiful, and it’s paired with a stunning montage of the city with a sweeping score. Its close to perfect. I am almost certain this black and white collection of the New York atmosphere is the driving force that brought me here. For the utter romanticism of the city. “It’s really a great city, really a knockout” (Allen)

Besides Annie Hall, which of course is a masterpiece, this is by far my favorite Woody Allen film. It was also my first entirely black and white film, and it created such a beautiful and new way to look at such a normally colorful city.

Although marred by the later scandal involving younger women and his proclivity for them, including his adopted stepdaughter, this movie still carries artistic value. Still, this film’s central romantic angle is between an older Woody Allen character, Isaac (42) and a high school girl, Tracey (17). Meanwhile he has to deal with ex-wife who is writing a book about their marriage and an affection for his best friend’s mistress. His ex-wife also happens to be played by an absolutely ethereal Meryl Streep.

Still the scenes shared by young Tracey and Allen’s character (who is literally just Woody Allen being peak Woody Allen) are awkward in their own way. She sounds too young, and whenever they interact she always reflects her age. Like asking who Rita Hayworth is or using modern slang while he is musing over some abstract and elitist concept. In the scene where they both meet Diane Keaton’s character, Tracey can’t hold her own in the art conversation and just agrees with whatever Allen says. She’s smart and charming, but she simply hasn’t had the experiences that come with age that her counterparts have.

Cinematically the black and white amplifies the romantic and nuanced aesthetic that Allen is trying to bring the the borough. The lighting is beautiful and often striking, with some scenes looking like they should be still works of art. The most iconic scene, and the featured image of this post, is cemented in cinematic history as Allen and Keaton gaze romantically at the Queensboro bridge.

The film as a whole comes off as a satirical approach of elitism, while also aligning itself in that typical Woody Allen elitism that makes him so famous. But whenever he and Keaton team up, they make for fantastic dialogue and true chemistry. She’s so funny, and she can quip just as fast as Allen’s snarky sense of humor. She keeps up with him while providing a more cool foil for his over the top neuroticism. And this film is bitingly funny. Allen’s one-liners are fantastic and the script is expertly crafted. Allen is charming in his weird neurotic sort of way, and the city has never looked better. Against the magnetic backdrop of the scenic city, this film delves deep into the dysfunctional relationships of the people who call it home.

Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10

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