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MANHATTAN

Director: WOODY ALLEN

U.S.A. • 1979 • BLACK AND WHITE • ANAMORPHIC • 96 MIN


NOMINATED FOR TWO ACADEMY AWARDS IN 1979, AND CONSIDERED ONE OF WOODY ALLEN’S MOST ENDURING ACCOMPLISHMENTS, ‘MANHATTAN’ IS RE-RELEASED IN A SPLENDID NEW PRINT.
For the critic Andrew Sarris, Manhattan is ‘the only truly great American film of the Seventies’—a large claim indeed. Its theme, according to Woody Allen, is ‘the problem of trying to live a decent life amidst the junk of contemporary culture—the temptations, the seductions.’
He plays a television writer striving to write serious literature. His artistic frustrations are paralleled by those in his personal relationships, as he finds himself tormented by his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) who has published a best-seller about their disastrous marriage, and romantically torn between a beautiful teenager (Mariel Hemingway) and his best friend’s neurotic mistress (Diane Keaton). ‘This year I’m a star,’ Allen was saying at the time, ‘but what about next year—a black hole?’ Prophetic words, perhaps: his critical reputation has never quite recovered from the revelations about his private life, and, for obvious reasons, Manhattan might make somewhat uncomfortable viewing now (the tensions between Art and Life are developed more deeply in the later Husbands and Wives). For the most part, though, the elegant comedy lances the emotional pain. Gordon Willis’s blackand- white photography is exquisite; Gershwin’s swooning music is the apotheosis of New York; and Allen’s persona as a wry, bruised authority on urban anxiety is given an intelligent, poignant context. In the end, he does not let his hero off lightly, making him the butt of the film’s beautiful final line, a gentle rebuke which pierces his ironic defences like an arrow. —Neil Sinyard.

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