Within this country is another dimension of living; the people are stressed yet suitable, the traffic is horrible, the land is big but compact and the sights are unimaginable; this place is New York City. As a native Southern-Californian, I was excited for my first trip to the city back in 2004. Boy was I overwhelmed. Never have I visited a place where the skyscrapers can make anyone feel like an ant. I never understood the more aggressive attitude that New Yorkers had until this time. It was just last week that I paid another visit. Only this time, as my mom was in business meetings all day, I got to explore it on my own.
Rather then play dumb tourist, I wanted to see the city as the people here would. Of course I got to see places like Central Park, Times Square and the New York Public Library, but I wanted the chance to walk the sweet yet unclean streets to experience the different side of America. I can say I had fun, though I’m not sure I could handle the constant aggression and loud feeling of the city. But I cannot deny that there is a self-awareness of pride and love for the place they call home. If I had to pick a movie that best represented New York, then that would have to be Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
Setting the perfect tone, Manhattan opens with some great black and white photography of the city accompanied by the famous Gershwin composition, Rhapsody in Blue. After the love letter to the city montage, we are introduced to a comedy writer named Isaac Davis (played by Woody Allen). He is writing a book about his passion for his home. He is also dating Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway), a seventeen-year old going to the prestigious Dalton School.
Like most writers, he contemplates his own attitude towards life and his divorce from Jill (played by Meryl Streep) to the only person he feels can trust now, his best friend Yale. It is here Isaac meets Mary (played by Diane Keaton), a woman that Yale is having an affair with. Upon meeting each other at Museum of Modern Art, Isaac and Mary hit it off and continue dating, even as he is committed to Tracy. Though he knows he cannot keep a serious relationship to the young girl, he knows her face is something in life that’s worth living for.
Manhattan is considered Woody Allen’s best movie by a lot of people. I’m not in that crowd, but I will call it his best movie about New York. It may be the dull colors of the building, but there’s something about New York that’s made to be photographed in black and white. The movie looks like a gorgeous Ansel Addams painting that seems to burst life through the smoke and mist. After finally having been there, it’s clear that Woody Allen had wanted to capture the city as someone who has lived there his whole life. Watching this movie takes me back into the big city.
Now aside from the cinematography, how is the story? Like a lot of people, I think the romance-comedy works as well. What make’s Woody Allen’s character work is how much like a real writer/New Yorker he is. Writers can often become trapped into their own fantasies, due to their own shortcomings of writers block and procrastination. We all want to do what we love, but life happens to put something ahead of our desires. Woody Allen’s Isaac is still relatable to anyone wanting to write, and understandable to the people of New York who have face the beatings of life in the city.
I’ll give this five skylines of Manhattan out of five. This is an absolute must for anyone who has wanted to see the real New York on film, yet also look at a beautiful photo. Woody Allen had somehow accomplished both.