Nominated for two Academy AwardsÂ(r)* in 1979 and considered "one of Allen's most enduring accomplishments" (Boxoffice), Manhattan is a wry, touching and finely rendered portrait of modern relationships against the backdro... more »p of urban alienation. Sumptuously photographed in black and white (Allen's first film in that format) and accompanied by a magnificent Gershwin score, Woody Allen's aesthetic triumph is a "prismatic portrait of a time and a place that may be studied decades hence" (Time). 42-year-old Manhattan native Isaac Davis (Allen) has a job he hates, a seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), he doesn't love and a lesbian ex-wife, Jill (Meryl Streep), who's writing a tell-all book about their marriage and whom he'd like to strangle. But when he meets his best friend's sexy intellectual mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton), Isaac falls head over heels in lust! Leaving Tracy, bedding Mary and quitting his job are just the beginning of Isaac's quest for romance and fulfillment in a city where sex is as intimate as a handshakeandthe gateway to true love is a revolving door. *Supporting Actress (Hemingway); Original Screenplay« less
Self indulgent but it was fun to see where Friends got there background story for the Ross character.
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Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Even with a slow start, Woody makes this one of is most personal and profound movies. His character here seems to reflect himself more than any of his others. The entire cast is superb.
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Nearly 30 Years Later, Still Woody's True Masterpiece
David Kusumoto | San Diego, CA United States | 11/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1979, Woody had the burden of trying to capture the "originality" of "Annie Hall," the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1977.
So when "Manhattan" was released, Woody's first "true" widescreen picture (so much so that Woody insisted this film NEVER be released on video or shown on television without the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen), I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
I discovered that "Manhattan" had a completely different tone than "Annie Hall." It was more serious, but still hilarious. I became so enraptured by its themes, its music and its atmosphere that I felt, until I saw "Schindler's List" in late 1993, that I had witnessed something that comes along only once or twice a generation...and that's true greatness on film. I paid to see "Manhattan" at least four times during its initial run in 1979. I had never done this before, even when I include those popcorn pictures I had seen several times put out by Spielberg and Lucas during the 1970s. I found "Manhattan" simply incredible, so "on the mark," so revelatory about the weaknesses of people, especially so-called "intelligent" people.
Rather than go over the plot, I believe "Manhattan's" themes include the following:
1. intellectualism is overrated 2. romance is illogical and unscientific 3. words don't always match our actions 4. moral structure is a man-made invention 5. fidelity is an optimistic ideal 6. skeletons in the closet are better left unsaid 7. uncorrupted optimism is mostly found in young people 8. cynicism increases as you grow old 9. advancing years = more unnecessary baggage 10. The more you know, the more it can hurt you
That all of the above can still be delivered with terrific humor is something only Woody Allen could accomplish.
There was a time when Woody's life imitated his art so closely that I had to avoid this SPECIFIC film for awhile. But now the past is past and it doesn't matter. Woody's art remains and the messages in "Manhattan" haven't been diminished after so many years. It still holds up even though it was made during the late 1970s.
Yes, Woody Allen's films are an acquired taste. People won't admit it, but when you pin down WHY they don't like "Manhattan" or anything he does, you find the reasons are rooted in conventional moral judgments, religious intolerance or even genetic issues such as his "whiny" voice and the fact he is one of the most un-photogenic actor-director-writers of our time (e.g., no one likes watching Woody "kiss" any woman on screen.)
And when art becomes too closely reflective of an artist's life, it can make people uncomfortable. My response is if you are unable to separate an artist's personal life or lifestyle from his work, sometimes the world can be made the lesser for it.
"Manhattan" and "Annie Hall" remain the benchmarks of all urban-based, non-screwball comedies made in America. That Woody was able to "re-invent," or more to the point -- to "invent" a new genre of comedy -- is more evident today by looking at everything that has come since 1979 that is clearly derivative from these two landmark urban films.
Only elitist thinkers will call people who don't "get" this film "fools." They're not. Admittedly, Woody's films are an acquired taste. Fans who have followed him forever, quite candidly, like the way he is on screen, even if it's the same nebbish, over-analytical character every time. We're comfortable with him in the same and opposite way that we didn't mind Cary Grant playing Cary Grant all of the time. Nobody delivers a punch line or joke better than Woody and when he's not in his own films, they don't seem as funny.
"Manhattan," in my opinion, is the finest of Woody's "quartet" of masterpieces (the others are "Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors"). There is so much hilarity and truth woven into this picture, complimented by a glorious Gershwin score and wonderful black and white cinematography, that I'm 100 percent sure -- that Woody will never be able to top this film -- even if he lives to 100.
The end "smirk" on his face speaks volumes about what's going on in this story, and why, unlike most of Hollywood's "mainstream" comedies, he won't give you the standard cornball ending.
Yet what he leaves behind as the credits roll, still leaves you satisfied. There isn't anything left hanging, in my mind, since you already know that Woody's character KNOWS how everything is going to end. That's the reason for the "smirk."
How many filmmakers can get away with this and stay original?
This is Woody's greatest film and it remains undated after almost 30 years..."
AFI 's Love Stories #66: Manhattan
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Woody Allen won the Oscar (in abstentia) for writing and directing "Annie Hall," which also won the Oscar for Best Picture, it was assumed the stand-up comic turned auteur had reached the pinnacle of his career. Then Allen proceeded to go out and make an even better film with his next effort, "Manhattan." Filmed in glorious black & white (and widescreen) by the great cinematographer Gordon Willis, the opening sequence combining indelible images of New York City with Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is a paean to city Allen loves and the most rhapsodical sequence in any of his films.Rather than talking about the plot per se, "Manhattan" is best explained as a convoluted series of wrecked and ruined relationships centering around Allen's character, Isaac Davis. Isaac is divorced from Jill (Meryl Streep), who is now living with Connie (Karen Ludwig), and planning to write an expose on her marriage. Isaac is having an affair with 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), but then he meets Mary (Diane Keaton), the mistress of his best friend Yale (Michael Murphy), who is married to Emily (Anne Byrne). Ultimately, however, this is not a film about love, but rather a film about loss, because you just know that forced to make choices, Isaac is going to make the wrong ones. Tracy and Mary are characters constructed as such polar opposites and it never dawns on Isaac to focus more on what each has than on what they lack. Of course, today this film is obviously open to reinterpretation given Allen's very public personal life and it is now assumed that the Isaac-Tracy relationship was a sign of things to come rather than a dramatic construction. If you can get away from the film's Freudian implications then you can appreciate Hemingway's Oscar nominated performance, which is not only at the heart of the film but provides its heart as well. In contrast, Keaton's Mary is rather soulless (the anti-Annie Hall if you will). When the choice is so clear the fault is clearly not in the women, but rather in the character of Isaac (or lack of character, as the case might be). The ending is certainly the most bitter sweet of any Allen film to date.Most Romantic Lines (remember, this is a Woody Allen film): (1) "I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics"; (2) "Yeah! I can tell, a lot. That's, well, a lot is my favorite number", and, of course, (3) "Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um...Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh...Like what... okay...um...For me, uh... ooh... I would say ... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh...um... and Willie Mays... and um ... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony ... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues ... um ... Swedish movies, naturally ... Sentimental Education by Flaubert ... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra ... um ... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh...the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face ..." If you enjoyed "Manhattan" then check out these other films on the AFI's list of 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time: #11 "Annie Hall," #25 "When Harry Met Sally," and #35 "Gigi." Why? The first because it is also Woody Allen, the second because it also takes place in NYC and involves making the wrong choice and then running to the woman to do something about it, and the third because it also thanks heaven for little girls..."
Romanticized all out of proportion? Nah...
P. B. Fey | Phoenixville, PA USA | 07/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Annie Hall" may be generally regarded as the funniest of Woody Allen's adult comedies, but there's much to be said for the richly textured "Manhattan." Mariel Hemingway is perfectly cast as the doe-eyed (and teen-aged) Tracy, the initial love interest of Allen's Isaac Davis. Setting aside any parallels to Mr. Allen's current real-life situation, suffice it to say that the relationship between Isaac and Tracy is sweet and passionate, and ultimately the heart of the life lesson Isaac learns. Dianne Keaton (Mary Wilke) is the hyper, neurotic adult involved with Isaac's married friend Yale (Michael Murphy). Together, Hemingway and Keaton give excellent performances: perhaps even Mariel's best, while Keaton's is at times cloying but at heart quite sympathetic in a search for love in Manhattan. Which brings us to the real star of the film: the city itself. The opening montage alone--set to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"--paints a delightfully romantic, pulsing portrait of Allen's New York. Cinematographer Gordon Willis's sumptuous black-and-white was shamefully overlooked by the Academy. Visually, the film is stunning, with a palette of tones that reflect the story's inherent warmth as well as its moments of stark confrontation. Allen has worked in black-and-white several times, but this is the most successful effort. And, as much as he seems to decry it, Woody once again creates a sentimental--but never mawkish--ode to love, human frailties, and the Big Apple. Yes, that's Meryl Streep as the other woman. If a classic film is one that stands the test of time, then "Manhattan" is holding up exceptionally well. Even bettern than "Annie Hall.""
Luminous and wonderful!
Kevin Fink | Lawrence, KS United States | 05/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It makes me sad (not to mention angry) that some people make the statement that this movie is about "a child molestor." The same people who say this are the ones that praise "There's Something About Mary" and "American Pie" for it's "comic innovativeness." This is NOT a documentary, it is simply a situation, and Tracy (the girl) was not forced into her position as girlfriend--it is a choice. Let's not forget this was the 70s, and while that's not an excuse, shame on those who imply that this beautiful movie is simply about a man and an underage girl.That said, this is one of the most gorgeous movies ever made. Although "Hannah and Her Sisters" is probably my favorite Woody Allen movies, this is Allen's cinematic masterpiece. Words can't describe how beautiful the lights of Manhattan look as they sparkle through the trees in Central Park. But the acting shines as well. Diane Keaton is both hilarious and sad as a neurotic woman who is so full of herself and yet so unlucky in love; Woody Allen plays a divorced, neurotic man (shocker. . .); and while Mariel Hemingway isn't terrible, the tone of her voice and her manner did grate on my nerves a little. . .but that didn't ruin the movie at all. She is the voice of reason not only to Issac (Allen's character) but for the entire film.It's a true testament to the genius of Allen that his movies, which usually end so sad, can still fill you with hope. It's as if he's telling the audience that it's the journey, not the destination, that's important. Everything about "Manhattan" shines, even after more than 20 years. I highly suggest this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it."