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Manhattan (1979)

He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved…

Directed by:

Woody Allen

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

If you’re even vaguely-familiar with the sort of movies Woody Allen has continued to churn out on a near-annual basis since the end of the 60s, you won’t find anything remotely surprising about ‘Manhattan’. It’s an above-average piece of work, in which Allen takes centre stage, and – again, no shocker here – plays a neurotic overly-analytical Jew who attracts the attentions of women far more attractive than himself and goes on to exchange various witticisms with them. Oh, and of course, it all takes place in New York, not just the centre of Allen’s universe, but Allen’s universe in its entirety.

He’s the goggle-eyed Isaac Davis, a man who you can’t help but feel is supposed to be taken as much more handsome and appealing than he actually is (again, it’s not an unusual component for a Woody film). When we meet him he’s dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year-old schoolgirl who, strangely, appears to genuinely adore him. But it’s not long before we switch love interests to Mary (Diane Keaton), a considerably more mature woman who’s torn between Isaac and his bezzie mate Yale (Michael Murphy).

‘Manhattan’ is often considered the Woodster’s finest hour-and-a-half, but great it ain’t. There’s lots of walking and talking, mumbling and stuttering, and general scrutiny of many an overblown triviality (yup, more Allen staples) – but, while at times mildly humorous, it’s not a nice film to get involved in. Although it doesn’t follow the turgid formula fallen back on by so many of today’s rom-coms, Isaac isn’t a character I ever wanted to relate to. By the time the film’s over he’s gone from a bit self-engrossed to outright selfish, his intentions never seem motivated by any sort of decency, and none of his romances are particularly convincing.

In fact, the best two things about the movie are the parts not even credited to Allen – George Gershwin’s music and Gordon Willis’ cinematography. But, with half an hour to go, I’d already had enough of it.

It's Got: A totally unnecessary ‘15’ certificate – by today’s standards it’s all pretty tame.

It Needs: To be watched on a wide-screen TV – otherwise the at-times peculiar framing is likely to cause problems.

DVD Extras A trailer, and that’s your lot. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Annie Hall

Summary

Beautifully shot, musically marvellous, and nowhere near as good as it’s often made out to be.

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