Manhattan

Manhattan - Tim Murphy ENGL 421 12/02/02 After the sci-fi...

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Tim Murphy ENGL 421 12/02/02
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After the sci-fi slapstick of “Sleeper” and the intellectual comedy of “Love and Death,” Woody Allen turned forty. This milestone in his life was probably related to introspective nature of his next few films. He released a film in 1972 that would define the term “romantic comedy” for many filmmakers, critics, and fans. “Annie Hall” began Allen’s “mature” phase as audiences watched him work out his (and their) neuroses out on the big screen. After going for full dramatic effect in “Interiors,” Allen returned to the style of “Annie Hall” and made “Manhattan,” a subtle, black and white picture of life and relationships that was no doubt just as personal as “Annie Hall.” Blake even suggests that “‘Annie Hall’ seems merely a rough draft for the much stronger ‘Manhattan’” (77). Allen has said that “Manhattan" is "a mixture of what [he] was trying to do with ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Interiors’” (Girgus, 58). Each of the characters in “Manhattan” represent and aspect of the city that Allen’s character, Isaac, muses about in the opening shots. Much has been made of the idea that this movie is solely a valentine to Woody’s favorite city, but, like “Annie Hall,” it says so much more about what in the past and future humans worry about and what we look for in all of our relationships and the city of Manhattan is a perfect metaphor. Filmed effectively in stunning black and startling white (more in the style of “Dead Man” than “Pi”), “Manhattan” at its base is about Isaac Davis, a television writer who quits his job on the grounds of ethics and quality. His ex-wife, Jill, left him for another woman and is writing a humiliating book based on her marriage to and divorce from Isaac. He is dating a 17-year-old high school student, Tracy, and falls in and out of love with the mistress, Mary, of his (married) best friend, Yale. The movie is sandwiched between two montages of shots of Manhattan set to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue.” Bailey notes that the cinematic framing of the cityscape in long shots
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evokes a “romantically inflationary distance” (48). In other words, it is easy to idealize – even over-idealize – New York City, from this distance. Girgus’s book The Films of Woody Allen is a useful compendium to “Manhattan,” although he often reaches too far, in my opinion, when analyzing most visual elements in this film. Although one of his more palatable opinions is that the opening montage conveys Allen’s – and Isaac’s – celebration of the natural beauty and magnificence of Manhattan’s “unnatural, urban setting” (Girgus, 47). But, Isaac, whom the audience first hears narrating the montage as possible openings for his book, puts forth two different ideals: the tough, romantic New York and the “metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture.” Isaac says in the final re-write of “chapter one” that “New York was his town and always would be.” But, which version of New York is Isaac’s town?
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This note was uploaded on 10/29/2008 for the course ENGL 2123 taught by Professor Molchan during the Spring '08 term at LSU.

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Manhattan - Tim Murphy ENGL 421 12/02/02 After the sci-fi...

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