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USA 1979
Directed by
Woody Allen
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


One of  Woody Allen’s most iconic and most loved films, made at the height of his critical and commercial popularity and co-written by the director with Marshall Brickman, Manhattan is both a typically semi-autobiographical confection straddling the comic and the serious and a homage to his beloved hometown. With terrific black and white photography by Gordon Willis, excellently combined with George Gershwin's well-known music it is, if anything, this aspect which is the film’s strength, making it a seductively sophisticated vehicle for Allen’s characteristic riffing on the manners and mores of white liberal Manhattanites.

The story follows the day-to-day life of Isaac, a twice-divorced 42-year-old successful TV comedy writer, involved with multiple beautiful women (a typical characteristic of Allen's films that irritates many non-fans) including a 17-year-old high school student Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), his second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), and an insecure freelance writer, Mary (Diane Keaton).

As usual, Allen’s humour is a mixture of priceless bon-mots and almost wincingly juvenile sex jokes that flow from his character in an indiscriminate stream. In its more serious aspect the film tends to be too episodic to engage in dramatic terms, there being little substantial interaction between the characters bar the relationship between Isaac and Tracy (a memorable performance from Mariel Hemingway, who is particularly touching in the break-up scene) but that is perhaps being over-demanding of the film which is as much a clever descendant of the classic Hollywood studio style of society comedy of the 1930s and 1940s as it is a portrait of 1970s urban middle-class personal and social anxiety.




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