May 06, 2012 Web Exclusive
Likewise to many of Woodly Allen's films, Manhattan is awash in conversation; but even more so than Annie Hall, the visual backdrop of Manhattan presents the viewer with riveting visuals of New York City in the late '70s. This is primarily attributable to the absolutely indispensable cinematography of Gordon Willis, the fulcrum of perhaps the most visually arresting film he and Allen collaborated upon.
Coming off the ill-received Interiors, in retrospect it seems that no one could have expected Manhattan. In fact, his next two films, Stardust Memories, followed by Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, seemed somehow more appropriate-the former as it essentially felt like a protracted reaction to the rejection of Interiors, and the latter because it conceivably could have been deemed a deliberately calculated return to popular form. To never default to what's "appropriate" seems to be the lesson Allen seeks to impart here. Although film critics themselves often seem oblivious to this device, they've equally punished and celebrated Allen for his celluloid curveballs. Humorously, if Allen wanted mass acceptance from critics and fans, he likely wouldn't have made Manhattan, one of his most successful films, in the way he did.
Few films prod as deeply into the creator/viewer consciousness than Manhattan brazenly dares. Far more serious than Annie Hall, it still has plenty of genuine comedy in its characters as well. It's also one of Allen's most successful Ingmar Bergman-esque pictures in its ability to present the viewer with some truly immersive material that's steadfast in its conviction to not offer facile answers; Allen delves into something disarmingly personal, largely predicated on the experiences of the viewer himself.
Although Annie Hall's ending is unconventional, Manhattan is downright shocking in its finale. Though open-ended, this ending is not a cliff-hanger by any stretch. It emulates the same sensitivity that Bergman displayed with many of his less renowned films, The Virgin Spring and Cries and Whispers being prime examples, ones in which viewers are given fragments of a story in an elliptical order that forces them to recall their personal experiences in concert with that of the characters. And eschewing overt didactics at the end of Manhattan was one of Allen's most brazen cinematic moves.
The hardcore Allen fans that have avoided rewatching Manhattan due to its sheer ubiquity in his pantheon in are the ones who will benefit most from this Blu-ray edition. It's a perfect excuse to look back at Manhattan, in particular Willis' gloriously Hi Def, rendered more gorgeously than ever on this sensational edition. The scenes of Allen's fabled, idyllically mythologized New York City throughout Manhattan will likely remain unmatched forever, and outside of a repertory arthouse screening, you're unlikely to find a more stunning reproduction. (www.woodyallen.com)
Author rating: 9/10
Average reader rating: 9/10