Shot in ravishing black & white CinemaScope by the great Gordon Willis and backed by an all-Gershwin score, Woody Allen’s romantic comedy from 1979 surely earns its title: it is one of the cinema’s great odes to New York.
Screened as part of Autumn Events 2017
It’s also Allen’s best and definitive film. Fretful as ever, his character is a TV comedy writer aspiring to something more serious. His wife (a formidable Meryl Streep) has dumped him for another woman and will dissect their marriage in her forthcoming book. He’s dating a much younger woman (Mariel Hemingway), but when Diane Keaton trashes his taste in art he’s smitten. Should it make a difference that her current boyfriend (Michael Murphy) and his wife are our hero’s best friends? Amongst this indelible cast 18-year-old Hemingway dominated the headlines for her lustrous embodiment of Allen’s romantic idealisation of uncomplicated youth – a notion that causes more embarrassment in his character than it seemed to in audiences at the time. The one-liners come as fast as the signifiers of 70s cosmopolitan sophistication, but there’s an undertow of sadness, a recognition of loss that undercuts even self-satire. The new 4K digital print is scanned from the original camera negative.
“Woody Allen, in his most important and refined of movies Manhattan, gave us a triumph of cinema as art – while being just as funny as he was wise. Late at night in a taxi he whispers to Diane Keaton, ‘You look so lovely, I can hardly keep my eyes on the meter’. If I had just one movie to take to a desert island, this would be it. This perfect, flawless film opens and closes with cinematographer Gordon Willis' radiantly beautiful images (in black and white) of the New York skyline with fireworks exploding to Gershwin's ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. What happens in between, with a comedy writer and his friends, is disturbingly perceptive, witty and sophisticated.” — Mark Knowles
“What's most authentic about Manhattan is its fantasy… he cast this shining city in the form of those movies that he might have seen as a child in Coney Island – freeing the visions that he sensed to be locked up in the silver screen… It’s his version of an Astaire and Rogers musical, as romantic as Casablanca, as slickly metropolitan as Sweet Smell of Success… Allen’s subsequent attempts to recapture Manhattan have often been embarrassing, but he (and we) will always have this.” — J. Hoberman, Village Voice