the fresh films reviews

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Manhattan (1979)

Directed by:
Woody Allen



96 minutes

Produced by:
Charles H. Joffe

Written by:
Woody Allen

Marshall Brickman

Cast includes:

Isaac Davis Woody Allen
Mary Wilkie Diane Keaton
Yale Pollack Michael Murphy
Tracy Mariel Hemingway

Jill Davis

Meryl Streep -

Emily Pollack

Anne Byrne -


Michael O'Donoghue -


Wallace Shawn -



Woody Allen's perhaps most outright love letter to New York City, and his first movie in black-and-white, is a small-scale comedy/drama with a hint of grandeur in the cinematography department and the use of George Gershwin's music. Woody plays Isaac Davis, a 42-year-old writer who just can't seem to find the right one. His latest ex-wife, played by Meryl Streep, seems to be inherited from Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer. And his most recent conquest is a 17-year-old high school student (Mariel Hemingway), a relationship he justifies by constantly referring to her as "too young". Then he meets culture connoisseur Mary (Diane Keaton), and everything seems to click into place. Although, we all know that nothing ever really does with Woody Allen. And this is of course the basis for the bittersweet symmetry which has always given his movies a certain slice-of-life veracity. For that to be true for Manhattan, however, you'll have to buy into the fantasy that this odd-looking, bespectacled, middle-aged little man can be the object of attraction for a beautiful, modern 17-year-old. But hey, this was the 1970s, and in retrospect, it is fair to say that Allen with this subnarrative tapped into a zeitgeist which existed in the wake of the sexual revolution arguably more than what he was aware of himself at the time. There is an undeniable appeal in watching these fundamentally unjudgmental characters interact it vividly illustrates how much the world has changed since 1979, arguably for both better and worse. But the movie and Isaac's many relationships and fiddlings with love aren't just a reflection of the times, they are also a reflection of Woody's hubris. And herein lies the reason why Manhattan doesn't quite work as the grandiose romantic comedy Allen set out to make, because running through its down-to-earth snobbery is a slight but constantly discernible indulgence. A certainty about its own cleverness and importance which not only impairs Woody's sometimes brilliant observations and phraseology, but also makes you aware of the story's inherent mediocrity.

Copyright 24.09.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang