Manhattan (1979)

Manhattan (1979)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Woody Allen
  • Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy


Isaac is a twice divorced New York writer with a 17 year-old girlfriend, Tracy, who has quit his job and is now afraid his upcoming book won’t provide him with much of an income. It doesn’t help that one of his ex-wives is also writing a book about their time together. He meets the somewhat pretentious Mary – who is seeing his married friend Yale – and he immediately takes a disliking to her. As they meet again however they begin to take an interest in each other and eventually fall in love. Tracy has a scholarship to a school in Europe and Isaac encourages her to take it, saying there is no future for them given the differences in their ages and the fact that he loves Mary. When Mary rekindles her affair with Yale, Isaac is left in the middle.

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  • Woody Allen is perhaps the most prolific American filmmaker of his generation. He has made more than forty films to date, averaging at an impressive rate of one film a year. Annie Hall (1977) was the motion picture that fully established Allen as one of the most intelligent writer-directors America has ever produced.

    He followed up with critical darlings such as The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Husbands and Wives (1992). Though most of his films lost their resonance in the late ’90s, Allen managed to revive his career with the box-office hit, Match Point (2005).

    Manhattan was made when Allen was at the top of his game. Filmed in black-and-white, it is arguably the most well-loved film in the director’s filmography. Manhattan is like a love letter to New York, the city he adores greatly.

    It stars the man himself as Issac Davis, a 42-year-old Manhattan native with three big, complicated problems in his life: First, he wants to quit his job which he hates. Second, he is frustrated at his ex-wife who turned lesbian and is attempting to write and publish a tell-all book about their marriage. Third, he wants to leave his current 17-year-old girlfriend whom he doesn’t love for Mary, his best friend’s sexy intellectual mistress.

    Manhattan explores Issac’s unfulfilled love life and his unorthodox methods in handling relationship issues in a city where the quest for true romance seems like an act of futility. The film features an Oscar-nominated screenplay written by Allen and Marshall Brickman. It keenly observes the responsive acuities of the human mind when it comes to tackle complex emotions like love and lust. And it does so with a tremendous dose of astute humour and heartfelt drama.

    Manhattan is photographed by Gordon Willis who interestingly varies the composite of each scene from murky shots of tranquil New York to pristine shots of the hustle and bustle of downtown New York. A few scenes are completely shot in the dark where the characters’ distinctive voices can only be identified; some are shot in near darkness with occasional spots of illuminating light, building an atmosphere that intensifies the romanticism of the moment.

    Acting feels natural and unexaggerated. The characters take a life on their own and are effective portrayals of smart New Yorkers who strangely entangle themselves in the complicated web of love, marriage, and sex.

    Woody Allen’s Manhattan is an example of a filmmaker working at the height of his powers delivering a motion picture of top-notch quality, perfectly blending humanity, humour, and substance in a film that is regarded to be one of the best and most enduring romantic comedies ever made. A masterpiece!

    GRADE: A+ (9.5/10 or 5 stars)
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