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"manhattan" (1979) - woody alen
posted on 24-Aug-2002 by anton

i have fallen in love with manhattan ever since my first trip to new york. since then i visit the city a few times a year - apparently I have developed a strange nostalgic attachment. I like its crazy pace, I cannot seem to get enough of the crowd on the streets with my usual people-watching obsession, I like finding quiet little pockets around manhattan, I like finding traces of history around town - not the poorly transplanted remnants of European history, as it is the case with DC or Boston, but something new and vital, deeply rooted in the past, unlike the soulless modernity of LA or Austin.

this is why any film that is as much obsessed with manhattan as i am, has always attracted extra attention on my part (no wonder I watched eyes wide shut twice in one week - something I rarely do - its cold gaze, lingering on the streets of manhattan fascinated me beyond belief - the world of shadows, canyon-like streets, promise of adventure and subconscious expectation of danger).

it explains why the opening sequence of manhattan, with the panoramic black and white (woody allen's first picture filmed in black and white) shot of skyline was something I absolutely could not resist. his new york of late 70s does not have the hyperkinetic pace of big city, it does not have the shallow glamour or the overwhelming sense of loneliness and abandon. the film aged remarkably well - the characters match hectic NY lifestyle, but at the same time they find those small moments and places in the city where they can remain themselves. despite its somewhat lighthearted genre, it is a very "adult" film, without patronizing or shallow desire for mindless entertainment. its characters have their own quirks and flaws, eccentricities and bizarre traits. somehow I have always viewed woody allen as an inept comedian, I have no idea where this notion came from, and I do regret the fact that I did not pay more attention to him earlier. his character is absolutely remarkable - charming, witty, funny, sarcastic and sensitive - this fountain of emotion, childish defenselessness combined with a very appealing ability to say what he has on his mind. despite his softness, he has integrity and strong set of beliefs that make for an incredible combination. the situation that the characters go through are trivial, but slightly twisted and piled together to the point where in retrospect it seems more of an emotional rollercoaster. woody allen really shines throughout the movie - some of the other acting is strangely unimpressive, but with him it is always a pleasure to watch and notice all the intricacies of his character.

for some reason I kept remembering and comparing it with the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie - perhaps because of the portrayal of the "intellectual" class that the character belongs to - its own kind of elite, and the overall very down to earth, very simple pace of manhattan - almost completely opposite to everything in bunuel's dazzling picture. this is a film that i can see myself coming back to time after time, just to indluge once again in its atmosphere, recall its vibrant characters, and remember a few more perfect stills, captured by the camera.


 
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