“Chapter One: He adored New York City, he idolized it all out of proportion—no, make that, he romanticized it all out of proportion.”
It becomes apparent right from its opening moments that MANHATTAN (July 9th-12th) is truly Woody Allen’s love letter to New York City. In 1979, New York was still the only city the writer/director/actor/comedian called home. And all that time spent in the Big Apple gave Allen the knowledge of how to present it on the big screen. The first, and boldest, of Allen’s choices that you notice is Gordon Willis’s beautiful black-and-white cinematography. And throughout the film you can sense how much Allen and Willis care about every shot, every frame, every moment. Visually, this was a completely different Woody Allen picture. Even if you take away Allen’s brilliant screenplay MANHATTAN is still a beautiful film to watch.
In his early career, the films Allen was praised for (LOVE AND DEATH, ANNIE HALL) weren’t lauded as much for Allen’s bold direction as for his original and honest writing, but with MANHATTAN he achieved both. Career-wise he had just completed ANNIE HALL, which won the Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actress (Diane Keaton) and Original Screenplay, and INTERIORS, his first drama, which impressed some critics while confusing others. The main positive that came out of the latter was that Allen was becoming more comfortable and assured behind the camera. The stage was set for Allen to finally seize all his talents into one film – and he delivered.
Added to MANHATTAN’s striking and gorgeous visual style Allen also weaves together a wonderful story that’s both broadly comedic and emotionally sophisticated. His hero, Isaac, may just be another version of Allen’s neurotic, Jewish cinematic persona, but it’s the best, most fully realized and human, version of the character. Surrounding Allen is a trio of great performances by Keaton, Meryl Streep, and Mariel Hemingway, who was the only actor in the film to grab an Oscar nomination for her work. You read that right; there was a time when both Academy darlings Streep and Keaton were shut out.
Over time most films fade, but MANHATTAN only gets better because its laughs are plenty, its images are memorable, and its themes are universal So come join us at Slaughter Lane 7/9-7/12 as we show this American classic on the big screen. (R.J. LaForce)