Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tribute to Great Film: Manhattan (1979)

Over the year's film maker Woody Allen has had love affairs with many cities, London, Rome, Paris, and of course New York City.  Woody Allen is high up on a list of directors with whom captures the every element of Manhattan.  The Wood Man has always been known for his leading ladies, from Diane Keaton to Penelope Cruz, the women in a Woody Allen film are typically the richest characters.  Yet Mr. Allen also makes the city itself, in this case Manhattan one of the characters in the film.  The opening sequence of the film is one of the most beautifully shot sequences highlighting the qualities of Manhattan, and the importance they bear to both Isaac and Woody himself.

The use of cinema scope, lighting, and shots which characterize the characters and the city create one of the most memorable film experience.  In Manhattan Woody Allen pays homage to a city he loves in parallel to the women he loves.  Throughout this film there is a beautiful blend of humor and sadness as the characters interact with one another on their search to find happiness.

The film centers on Isaac (Allen) who is dating a 17 year old girl named Tracey played exquisitely by Mariel Hemingway.  While on a double date with his good friend Yale Isaac finds out his friend has been cheating on his wife with Mary, played by Diane Keaton.  Mary is anti-Annie Hall; she is elitist, selfish, and often someone who appears to use others to her advantage.  As Yale walks away from Tracey because of her age he is drawn to Mary when she and Yale break off their fling.  The film brings out moments of hilarity as each of the characters explore their own personal baggage, and desires.  One of my favorite story lines involves Issac's ex-wife Jill, played with edge and wonderful comedic time by Meryl Streep.  Jill now a lesbian is writing a book and talks about their relationship.

One of my favorite moments in the film is Mary reading from Jill's book the following quote: 

"He was given to fits of rage, Jewish liberal paranoia, male chauvinism, self-righteous misanthropy, and nihilistic moods of despair. He had complaints about life but never any solutions. He longed to be an artist but balked at the necessary sacrifices. In his most private moments, he spoke of his fear of death, which he elevated to tragic heights when in fact it was mere narcissism." 

Issac scoffs at the similarities but this moment is one of the most real/funniest parts of the film.

Manhattan may be Woody Allen's most underrated achievement the film blends sheer optimism with some of the most heartbreaking moments.  As you watch Isaac struggle through his own personal and professional life you can relate with the concept of passion and love he longs for.  Isaac is surround by people people who have never been faithful, from Jill to Yale, but yet he is a self pro-claimed monogamous person.  In the film Isaac second guesses his own relationship with Tracey who adores him.  Throughout the whole film she pronounces her love for him, but without her present Isaac brushes this away thinking this can't be real, using her age as the reason, and the logic of the fact that she can't know love.  In the closing sequence between the two there are some of the most beautiful/heartbreaking moments, and Woody Allen stops playing himself and you see in both of their eyes a magical connection.

This is one of Woody Allen's best films, and there is a true artistic genius in the way he characterizes, the city, love, and the way the two play so well together.

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