Saturday, January 24, 2009

Manhattan - Woody Allen

Woody Allen's 1979 classic Manhattan is 30 years old this year and it certainly hasten lost any of its luster over time. It's as funny and poignant as ever. Before Seinfeld, before When Harry met Sally, before Friends, before Sex and the City, before all those TV shows and movies about yuppie life in NYC, Manhattan defined and influenced the sophisticated urban comedy.

If you've never seen it, Manhattan revolves around TV writer Ike Davis (Woody) who quits his job to write a book. Meanwhile he's dating a 17 year old high school student (Mariel Hemingway, foreshadowing Soon-Yi) and getting involved with Mary (Diane Keaton) the mistress of his married best friend Yale (Michael Murphy). To make matters worse, his now lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep) is writing a tell-all book about their failed marriage. People lie, cheat, and steal each others hearts. While a very funny movie, Manhattan is, above all, a morality tale about how the way you treat people will eventually come back to haunt you (so people should treat each other well).

Manhattan was Woody's first comedy after the Oscar-winning Annie Hall, and a lot of people consider it to be the superior film. In many ways, this was a daring film for its day. In 1979, New York City was in terrible economic shape and crime was exploding (as referenced in this opening from the movie). To make a movie celebrating NYC at the time wasn't a particularly cool thing to do. unlike n ow. Also, gay characters didn't appear in a whole lot of movies then, particularly gay people who were unapologetically "out" and happy about it. Not to the mention that Manhattan was shot in black and white which wasn't exactly something that set the box office on fire, then or now. Still, it's one of the most beautiful movies Woody has ever made and was actually one of his biggest hits ever.

Woody Allen co-wrote Manhattan with Marshall Brickman (both had won Oscars for co-writing Annie Hall). Marshall Brickman would go on to write other movies and he's one of the writers of the big Broadway musical hit Jersey Boys. It was the last movie they would write together until 1993 when they co-wrote Manhattan Murder Mystery. Coincidentally enough, Manhattan is also the last movie that Woody and Diane Keaton made until Manhattan Murder Mystery. (After Manhattan, Diane Keaton moved to California and her next big movie was Reds in 1981). Sadly, this great triumvirate hasn't made a movie since 1993 and probably never will again but that's okay ... we'll always have Manhattan.

1 comment:

Please keep it civil, intelligent, and expletive-free. Otherwise, opine away.