#236 Manhattan (1979)


96 Mins

Director: Woody Allen

Writers: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway

Storyline: “The life of a divorced television writer dating a teenage girl is further complicated when he falls in love with his best friend’s mistress.” IMDB


Brit Boy:

I have seen some Woody Allen movies before, however none spring instantly to mind (maybe one about a guy from space / set in the future). Maybe its time for a little IMDB’ing to figure out what it is I remember…..

OK I’m back it was actually called Sleeper and my memory isn’t all that bad it was described by IMDB as “A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.” Oh well back to my thoughts:

I don’t like Woody Allen as an actor or director and the fact that this is also shot in Black and White, doesn’t bode well. I’ve never liked Artsy films and this strikes me as being artsy in many ways.

American Girl:

I have to admit whenever I hear of Woody Allen all I think of is his affair/marriage to his wife’s adoptive daughter…. I don’t think I have seen any Woody Allen movies, and I am not eager to watch this one either.  I really don’t want to support anything that Woody Allen has done, but I suffered through reading “American Psycho” for our Distant Bookends blog, so I figured I could suffer through a Woody Allen film.  

Set The Scene

American Girl is taking a well earned break away from the kids so I will be watching this alone, I think I’m going to need a glass or two of wine for this one…

I watched this on the plane, which is quite the switch for Brit Boy and I… I somehow managed to convince him to even let me borrow his fancy noise cancelling Bose headphones for the event.

Final Cut

The first thing that struck me about the opening of this movie was the wonderful use of George Gershwin’s composition “Rhapsody in Blue”, I’ve always loved his music and it reminds me of hot Summer nights growing up watching Tom and Jerry on the TV. After a great deal of googling it appears that one of the cartoons which reminds me so much of this track is titled “Mouse in Manhattan”, I will let you make your own mind up.

One of the main reasons I don’t like Woody Allen is associated with questionable morality  generated by his relationship and subsequent marriage to his ex-wife’s (Mia Farrow) adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. This immediately came to mind when we were introduced to Allen’s character Isaac who is dating a 17 year old school girl 25 years his junior. In my mind there was no need to have a school girl as his primary love interest, as a viewer the fact she was significantly younger was all that was needed, the fact she was supposed to still be in high school was unnecessary and I feel played upon Allen’s liking for young girls as opposed to enhancing the storytelling.

Brit Boy I completely agree… All I kept thinking was about the young Soon-Yi, and that this movie foreshadowed his own relationship which was to occur with Soon-Yi.  It actually surprised me that this movie was considered such a hit, when by any modern standard a relationship with a 17 year old girl would be completely illegal.  Where were her parents throughout this entire movie???! If she were 22 and not in high school, it still could have had the same impact. 

Moving on to the characterization, the main characters in this film (played by Allen, Keaton and Murphy), were all highly dislikable people and not a good advertisement for either Manhattan or America in general. Each one was selfish and incredibly myopic. However this does speak volumes for the level of characterization displayed by our lead actors, Mariel Hemingway our 17 year old schoolgirl was in fact nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

I must say I was mesmerized by Mariel Hemingway’s character.  I kept trying to understand her motivations and how she was able to end up in such a bizarre relationship.  I am surprised she didn’t move on to become a bigger star after this film.  As a side note, I did enjoy seeing some very well known actors in their younger days.  I could not believe how stunning Meryl Streep was!  She also happened to be one of my favorite characters in the movie, albeit she had a relatively small part.  It was also nice to see Diane Keaton in a completely different role than I had ever previously seen her in.

In spite of my dislike of the main characters and loathing of Woody Allen, coupled with my concern for the potential artsy nature of the movie, I actually really enjoyed it. The film was straight forward and didn’t have a staggeringly complex plot, however it kept my attention and proved an enjoyable diversion on a Tuesday night. The black and white filming did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie and actually enhanced some of the views we had of 1970’s Manhattan. I would watch this movie again, maybe not any time soon but I certainly will not avoid it, I grudgingly accept that this movie does deserve a place on the list and was much better than I expected. This is certainly a clear example of why we should continue with this list American Girl.

This movie was much better than I was expecting, but it did surprise me that it was based on Allen’s “love affair” with Manhattan, and yet does not portray Manhattan in a beautiful light at all.  While I appreciate movies with grit, this just seemed to be whiny and egotistical.  (Ironically, American Psycho was also based in Manhattan, which seemed to have similar characters involved as well.)  Having spent very little time in Manhattan, I am now starting to wonder what the actual appeal to the city is!  All of this being said, I do agree that it still deserves a spot on the list.  Woody Allen was definitely considered an innovator in the business, and I know he has been involved with many movies, so it seems apt that he is represented on this list.  I do find it funny that the movie representing Allen on this list also seemed to be a bizarre foreshadowing of his relationship with Soon-Yi.  

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

Woody Allen and Sir Richard Attenborough both appeared as themselves in the documentary “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin”.







This entry was posted in IMDB Top 250, IMDB Top 250 Movie Review and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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