Woody Allen’s Manhattan may not seem like the perfect Valentine’s Day film at first. It contains its fair share of infidelities, break-ups and heartbreak, and its denouement is bittersweet. But this belies the film’s concern with transcendental love: the love of life itself.
Allen’s enthusiasm for filmmaking, music and metropolitan America bleeds into the unforgettable opening frames: monochrome shots of Manhattan streets set to the magnificent rises and falls of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. The film itself is a rhapsody: Allen’s voiceover repeats the phrase, “He adored New York City”, and shots of the Big Apple bookend the film, contextualising all that has happened in the film – all the emotional turbulences, the epiphanies, the regret, the adulation – and making it seem like a day in the life of New York City.
And the dialogue. Oh, the dialogue. No-one has written as many hilarious screenplays as Woody Allen.
The film itself is a work of art, simultaneously artificial and organic, restrained and passionate. However, there are certain moments when the beauty peaks magnificently: Allen and Keaton under the 59th Street Bridge, the visit to the planetarium, Allen’s life-affirming epiphany. And then there are those inspired moments: one that springs to mind is Allen’s altercation with Yale in the classroom, with the skeleton gazing on. And let’s not forget Gordon Willis’ cinematography. And the dialogue. Oh, the dialogue. No-one has written as many hilarious screenplays as Woody Allen.
So what makes it a love story fit for Valentine’s Day viewing? Well, there is a happy ending (unless you’re a moralist and/or don’t believe in second chances). The score is wonderfully romantic; I can’t think of anyone more perfect for scoring a film version of my love-life than George Gershwin. And Allen’s love for the characters – not least himself – is palpable. Ultimately, however, the film is a paean to the joys life itself can bring – whether it’s Groucho Marx, the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, or Mariel Hemingway’s face.
- Woody Allen: A Documentary by Edward Frost
- To Rome With Love by Rachel Boyd
- Midnight In Paris by John Cunningham