Manhattan (1979)

Rating: 7/10

I guess I'm not a purist, but I really prefer Woody Allen's darker side. I have a weird obsession with Match Point, and while I appreciate movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan, they just don't do it for me. Nevertheless, I found this movie to be enjoyable and realistic while still maintaining a sense of grandeur that can only come from a movie about life in New York City. 

One of the best things I enjoyed about this movie was the continuing shots. You'd see Tracy and Isaac in the living room together and after they left that room to go to the kitchen the shot would stay the same. You were forced to pay attention to what was being said rather than having to rely on facial expressions and gestures, which we often take for granted when watching movies. I also loved that it was in black and white. It added a sophistication to the film that contrasted with the very ordinary lifestyles of the characters. Here we are, watching the dynamics of human relationships and adult fuck-ups through the style of an old movie with a glamorous soundtrack, and yet the cinematography felt like a documentary. It was kind of fascinating to watch. 

My one criticism of this movie is the pace. It took a while to get into, and the only thing that saved it was the fact that you already knew the gist of Woody Allen's character, so you could jump in without having to build much of a background on him because his character is pretty much the same in every one of his movies. The movie itself just kind of exists without purpose for a while, and you don't understand what you're suppose to find out until the last two minutes. I suppose that's the point, however, and if you look at the overall making of the film and style, it more than compensates for the painfully slow pacing. 

"You just have to learn to have a little faith in people." If that doesn't sum up the entire plot of Woody Allen's crazy antics, I don't know what does. I can't get over how great that line is to end a movie. There are a lot of wonderful movies that have pretty shitty ending lines, but this is now going at the top of my list of the greats (among Kramer v. Kramer and Marie Antoinette). 

I think that had the movie focused less on the details of everyday life in New York and more about the overall plot and where it was going, it would have been far more effective. As it was, however, it focused on every single thing that happened to the characters every day of their lives and how it affected every other character two minutes later. It takes a while to get used to, but by the end of the movie you appreciate the way the story went, although I was a bit surprised when suddenly Isaac professes that it's been months since the film started. I have to admit I was like, "What... how....? When was that time shown? I thought everything happened three days ago." Still, if you ignore the discrepancies and appreciate the artistry of the film instead, it can be immensely amusing. 


The Movie Mistress


  1. Great post on a truly great film. Couldn't agree with you more about the sublime use of B&W photography - that opening sequence almost had me in tears!

    I'm also one who is more into films like MATCH POINT and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, but I love the early comedies for lines like "People should just mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics".

    (BTW - In case you're curious, my MANHATTAN post is up today too).

  2. I like both comedic and dramatic films from Woody Allen. As long as it is written brilliantly, I'm there. I'm a bit obsessed of MATCH POINT too.

    I didn't really notice the passage of time in "Manhattan." I just kinda assumed it played over a period of months. Maybe if the movie was in color, the color of the leaves would have given us a hint.

  3. I just don't like waiting that long to get the point ;p The ending line didn't give me the same sense of understanding it gave you. It's fitting, sure, but it didn't really strike me as terribly profound. Maybe that's just my general dislike of Isaac and Allen in general coming through.

    Great review though. The movie is really pretty to look at and the soundtrack has it's own charm to it. Allen's not the world's greatest film maker, but he certainly knows what he is doing.