Saturday, July 29, 2006

"MANHATTAN"

Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway

Manhattan, New York



According to this article, "Manhattan" is ranked 10th in the list of the 50 films to watch before you die. So I was in luck when shuffling through TV channels last night, I chanced upon the Lifestyle Channel showing this Woody Allen classic.

It is shot entirely in black and white, the setting is in the 70s and of course, the locale is New York. Any film written and directed by Woody Allen normally deals with human relationships. Or his view on what relationships are supposed to be, how marriages work or don't work, the wheeling and dealings of the human psyche when it comes to connecting with other people with the intention of establishing (or not) any type of relationship (romantic, platonic or sexual) .

His usual style of portraying a man eternally questions himself with regards to everything from the women he falls in love with ... to the movies he watches ... brilliantly shines in his portrayal of Isaac Davis.
A divorced New Yorker involved with a young girl (gasps, she is only 17!) yet he also actively pursues Mary who just happens to be the mistress of his best friend. A role played magnificently by the quirky Diane Keaton.

I have to admit since this is one of his earlier movies, his character is not as neurotic and self absorbed as the ones in "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Husbands and Wives". But oh have no qualms about it, Isaac Davis is a flawed character and one only Woody Allen can get away with.

Allen's main cinematic influences are noticeable in this film. He even went as far as enumerating them in one distinct scene where his character has an epiphany regarding what truly matters in his life. To name a few: Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx, Marlon Brando as well as Swedish movies.

His brand of comedy is reminiscent of the old Groucho Marx movies tinged with a bit of Chaplin. Woody Allen once acknowledged in some article I read a long time ago, he tries to imitate the style of these two great comedians in most of his movies. In "Manhattan" he succeeds with aplomb. Perhaps that's where he got the idea of filming this film entirely in black and white, imbibing it with a poignancy factor.
The music of Gershwin persists in several key scenes in the movie.
I particularly like the melodic rendition of "Someone to watch over Me" complimenting the gorgeous shots of New York at night.

Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy (who was seen recently in X Men: The Last Stand as Warren Worthington, Sr.) and a very young Mariel Hemingway - all talented actors in their own right essay good supporting roles to Woody Allen's Isaac Davis.

The clever way of combining witty dialogue with scenes of Manhattan in black and white, accompanied by a musical score of Gershwin songs conducted by the great Zubin Mehta as well as a good ensemble cast all contribute to making this romantic comedy - one of the best Woody Allen movies of all time.

Hmm now I still have about 38 more films to watch judging by the abovementioned list so ... Bring it on!

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