Comedy Monday: Manhattan (1979)

25 07 2011

In 1977 Woody Allen directed the comedy classic “Annie Hall” and following up such a movie would be a daunting task. Of course in 1978 he released “Interiors” which went in a slightly different direction but a year later he would come out with the, spiritually closer, film “Manhattan” which is much less a film as a love letter to New York. In it Allen plays Isaac, a 42 year old writer, twice divorced and dating a 17 year old girl. His married friend Yale (Michael Murphy) begins to have an affair with the lovely and smart Mary played unsurprisingly by Diane Keaton. As this relationship begins to unravel due to it’s complexity Isaac and Mary start to form one of their own. The dialogue comes fast and witty as only Woody Allen can make it and the cinematography highlights the iconic setting of Manhattan. Although Isaac is your classic neurotic lead his character arc is not as substantial as in “Annie Hall” yet everything else is so great that it more than makes up for it.

“Chapter One. He adored New York City.”

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, of Woody Allen’s films set in New York, but it is definitely one of his films that best exemplifies the city. In the first lines of the film Isaac has an monologue stating his very personal feelings for it and throughout the film simple parts like Isaac and Mary enjoyment of walks, his outright refusal of the concept to go to London, and the several locations visited of art and culture show aspects that he adores the most . Never overly upfront yet Allen constantly peppers in these odes to the city he idealizes and frames it wonderfully.

“It’s an interesting group of people, your friends are.”

Idealization and escapism are two key concepts in cinema and it can be created in several different ways. Woody Allen does it in his dialogue, he creates distinct, interesting, and strangely likeable characters. Although they all live fucked up lives and have more problems than junkie on a bender, you like them, you want to be friends with them, and heck you may even want to be them. Woody Allen’s characters are funny, insightful, intelligent to some degree, and while they may drive you crazy in real life, on screen they are delightful.

“Manhattan” is a fantastic film, Woody Allen’s wonderful dialogue and endearing cinematography make this really a picture to remember. I would have to say it isn’t quite as good as “Annie Hall”, but very close to nonetheless. It is a comedy to remember, delightful in its presentation and containing plenty of laughs, it is unique in nature as even 32 years later the closest thing to it is perhaps Allen’s latest; “Midnight in Paris”. Truly no one can make these types of movies nearly as good as he can.

Score: 96/100