MANHATTAN - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





USA, 1979


Director: Woody Allen

Production: A Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Production for United Artists; black and white, 35mm, Panavision; running time: 96 minutes. Released 1979. Filmed 1978 in New York City.


Producer: Charles H. Joffe; screenplay: Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman; photography: Gordon Willis; editor: Susan E. Morse; production designer: Mel Bourne; music: George Gershwin; costume designer: Albert Wolsky.

Cast: Woody Allen ( Isaac Davis ); Diane Keaton ( Mary Wilke ); Mariel Hemingway ( Tracy ); Michael Murphy ( Yale ); Meryl Streep ( Jill ); Anne Byrne ( Emily ).


Awards: New York Film Critics Awards for Best Direction (shared with Robert Benton for Kramer vs. Kramer ) and Best Supporting Actress (Streep, award also includes her performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Seduction of Joe Tynan ), 1979.


Publications


Script:

Allen, Woody, and Marshall Brickman, Manhattan , in Four Films of Woody Allen , New York, 1982.


Books:

Jacobs, Diane, But We Need the Eggs: The Magic of Woody Allen , New York, 1982.

Brode, Douglas, Woody Allen: His Films and Career , London, 1985, 1997.

Benayoun, Robert, Woody Allen: Beyond Words , London, 1987.

Bendazzi, G., The Films of Woody Allen , Florence, 1987.

Navacelle, Thierry de, Woody Allen on Location , London, 1987.

Pogel, Nancy, Woody Allen , Boston, 1987.

Jarvie, Ian, Philosophy of the Film: Epistemology, Ontology, Aesthetics , London, 1987.

McCann, Graham, Woody Allen: New Yorker , Malden, 1991.

Spignesi, Stephen J., Woody Allen Companion , Kansas City, 1992.

Champlin, Charles, Woody Allen at Work: The Photographs of Brian Hamill , New York, 1995.

Curry, Renee, Perspectives on Woody Allen , London, 1996.

Fox, Julian, Woody: Movies from Manhattan , New York, 1996.

Allen, Woody, Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation with Stig Bjorkman , Collingdale, 1998.

Lax, Eric, Woody Allen: A Biography , Collingdale, 1998.

Nichols, Mary P., Reconstructing Woody: Art, Love and Life in the Films of Woody Allen , Lanham, 1998.

Articles:

Quart, L., in Cineaste (New York), no. 4, 1979.

Pym, John, in Sight and Sound (London), no. 4, 1979.

Morris, G., " Manhattan : A Cerebral Approach to Filmmaking," in Take One (Montreal), no. 6, 1979.

Maraval, P., and J. C. Bonnet, "Images de la ville: Allen et Duras," in Cinématographe (Paris), no. 53, 1979.

Gitelson, N., "The Maturing of Woody Allen,"; in New York Times , 22 April 1979.

Canby, Vincent, in New York Times , 25 April 1979.

Ginsberg, S., in Variety (New York), 25 April 1979.

Gilliatt, Penelope, in New Yorker , 30 April 1979.

Kroll, Jack, in Newsweek (New York), 30 April 1979.

Sarris, Andrew, in Village Voice (New York), 30 April 1979.

Denby, D., in New York , 7 May 1979.

New Republic (New York), 19 May 1979.

Maslin, J., "I Share My Character's Views on Men—and Stuff Like That," in New York Times , 20 May 1979.

Corliss, Richard, in Film Comment (New York), May-June 1979.

Dempsey, M., "The Autobiography of Woody Allen," in Film Comment (New York), May-June 1979.

Weidner, H., "Woody Allen: God's Answer to Job," in Christian Century (Chicago), 6 June 1979.

Simon, John, in Nation (New York), 22 June 1979.

Bartholomew, D., in Film Bulletin (Philadelphia), June 1979.

Friend, D. M., "Woody Allen's Jewish American Gothic," in Mid-stream (New York), June-July 1979.

Simon, John, "Our Aliens and Theirs," in National Review (New York), 6 July 1979.

Grenier, R., "Woody Allen in the Limelight," in Commentary (New York), July 1979.

Thurman, J., in MS (New York), July 1979.

Mallow, S., "Lens Cap: Making Sense in Metuchen," in Filmmakers Monthly (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), July 1979.

Amiel, M., in Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1979.

Gow, Gordon, in Films and Filming (London), August 1979.

Letremble, M., in Séquences (Montreal), August 1979.

Alpert, Hollis, in American Film (Washington, D.C), September 1979.

Cebe, G., "Woody Allen: Portrait de l'acteur en cinéaste: Manhattan ; ou, Le Temps retrouvé," in Ecran (Paris), 15 September 1979.

McMurty, L., in American Film (Washington, D.C), September 1979.

Quart, L., in USA Today (New York), September 1979.

Kritz, J., interview with Woody Allen, in Filmfaust (Frankfurt), October 1979.

Baer, W., in Film und Ton (Munich), October 1979.

Fuksiewicz, J., in Kino (Warsaw), November 1979.

Wolf, W.R., in Film en Televisie (Brussels), December 1979.

Sarris, Andrew, "The New Phase of Intelligence," in Village Voice (New York), 3 December 1979.

Blau, Douglas, in Magill's Survey of Cinema 3 , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.

Termine, L., in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), February 1980.

Median de la Serna, R., "El cine de Woody Allen," in Cine (Mexico City), March 1980.

Teitelbaum, D., "Producing Woody: An Interview with Charles H. Joffe," in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), April-May 1980.

Manhattan
Manhattan

Ruiz, J., "Dos encuentros con Woody Allen," in Casablanca (Madrid), February 1981.

Goodhill, Dan, " Manhattan : Black and White Romantic Realism," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), November 1982.

Gallanfent, E., "Moonshine: Love and Enchantment in Annie Hall and Manhattan ," in Cineaction (Toronto), Summer 1989.

Girlanda, E., and A. Tella, "Allen, Manhattan transfert," in Castoro Cinema (Florence), July-August 1990.

Chances, Ellen, "Moscow Meets Manhattan: The Russian Soul of Woody Allen's Films," in American Studies International , vol. 30, no. 1, April 1992.

DeCurtis, Anthony, "Woody Allen: The Rolling Stone Interview," in Rolling Stone (New York), no. 665, 16 September 1993.

Deleyto, C., "The Narrator and the Narrative: The Evolution of Woody Allen's Film Comedies," in Film Criticism (Meadville), vol. 19, no. 2, 1994/1995.

Premiere (Boulder), vol. 9, January 1996.

Garbarz, F., " Manhattan : une autre femme," in Positif (Paris), no. 444, February 1998.


* * *

Manhattan opens with images of New York City over which the voice of Woody Allen, as writer Isaac Davis, begins chapter one of his new book: "He adored New York City. He idolized it out of proportion." The film is an homage to "Allen-town," to the city that spawned him, but unlike Allen's homage to the woman of his dreams ( Annie Hall ), here he idolizes the good while systematically removing the obviously negative. In the prologue he presents us with New York City's most glorious vistas: fireworks over Central Park, the skyline at dawn, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, all to the lush romantic sound of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue . Gone are the messy vistas, the untidy streets, the horrors of the subway system, people of non-white lineage. His book, an expanded version of an article he had written about his mother entitled "The Castrating Zionist," is, one can assume, this movie, and Isaac Davis is its author.

With typical deprecation, Isaac decides that the best way to achieve success is to write an autobiographical novel that is neither preachy nor angry, which focuses on an explication of his desired self-image. That image, like his image of the city, is a castrated one. While dwelling on the city's physical beauty, Isaac proceeds to effect an autopsy on his social set, his ultimate desire being an exposé of the decay of contemporary culture.

That social set consists of writers. Four of the main characters belong to that occupation: Isaac Davis is a television writer who quits his job to write his book; Yale is a teacher who is working on a biography of O'Neill; Mary Wilke is a journalist who writes on art and a variety of other topics; Jill is Isaac's ex-wife who publishes a feminist tract on their marriage entitled Marriage, Divorce and Selfhood . Throughout the film the names of great writers are bandied about, each one cited as if he were a reference point in the psychological development of the character. Thus Isaac refers to Strindberg, Bergman, Fellini, Kafka and Groucho Marx, his strategy being both reverential and referential. As he says to Yale: "I gotta model myself after someone!" The blend of writers cited certifies Isaac's neurotic condition. His problems, like those of the city, are intellectual.

As with other Allen films, this one also dwells on the impossibility of lasting relationships. If Bergman and Fellini were the influences of Interiors and Stardust Memories , Orson Welles seems to be the working model here, most specifically the Welles of The Lady from Shanghai . A reflection of the real-life decay of Welles's marriage to Rita Hayworth, Lady abounds with bitter commentary on relationships. References to Hayworth, the buggy ride in Central Park, the use of the planetarium for a love scene, the romantic voice-over which begins Manhattan , and themes of decay all point to this film as an influence. In fact, the last line of dialogue from Shanghai could have been used to end Manhattan .

Filmed in Panavision on Technicolor stock, then printed in black and white, this film is Allen's most complex reflection on the artist as romantic—his draining of its color the most bitter-sweet stroke.

—Doug Tomlinson

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