Framework: Woody Allen’s Manhattan

Our DIY film school series continues with Woody Allen’s 1979 classic Manhattan, screening this weekend at Cinéma du Parc as part of their complete Allen retrospective.

Framework is a year-long DIY film school; 52 essential films to expand your consciousness.

Neurotic, intellectual, insatiable, obsessive, morose, exclusive — the cinema of Woody Allen will always be the definitive existential voice of New York’s Upper West Side, and there will be no shortage of Allen’s neuroses in our city over the next 45 days. Through Nov. 22, die-hard devotees will exalt in Cinéma du Parc’s newest comprehensive retrospective, entitled The Complete Woody Allen, a chronological screening of all 44 of his films.

Prior to Allen’s recent devotion abroad, his legacy for creating New York- and New Yorker-centered films fuelled a near-uninterrupted career that has spanned over 40 years. Beginning in 1965 with What’s Up Tiger Lily?, few can contend with his prolific filmography, which is all the more reason why his body of work can polarize audiences into two ardent camps. His perpetual theme of self- reflexive, rampant (predictable) neurotic outbursts that poke frantic questions at existence will either drive you to near exhaustion or act as the alluring reason why you come back for more.

Sandwiched between his early slapstick comedy and his more recent interest in the European side of life is one of Allen’s most valuable contributions to cinema, his 1979 film Manhattan. The seed for Manhattan, which to date is Allen’s most critically acclaimed film (with Annie Hall as a close second), grew out of the director’s desire to work within specific technical parameters: anamorphic shooting to mirror the immensity of his beloved city, and black and white film to echo the vision of New York that had been romanticized through countless classic films. The execution of those parameters, through the cinematography of Gordon Willis, delivers a New York City that is stately and majestic, romantic and accessible — a stark contrast from the actual crime and decay that erupted in the city throughout that same decade.

With the shooting aspects in mind, Allen and his long-time collaborator Marshall Brickman crafted a script that contrasted their cold technical concerns. The emotional see-saw of three characters, friends Yale (Michael Murphy), Isaac (Allen) and their accidental/communal love interest Mary (Diane Keaton), form an intricate love triangle that holds no one to their convictions. Their situation would be complicated enough were it not for Yale’s complacent wife Emily (Anne Bryne) and Isaac’s teenage girlfriend, Tracy (Mariel Hemmingway), who is 25 years his junior.

Lack of personal integrity and principles is the main idea in Allen and Brickman’s original screenplay, which was nominated for an Academy Award. As each character rationalizes their way out of bad decisions, Tracy remains honest, loyal and the symbol of redemption. She restores the faith to Allen’s harsh world, and she does so in the final memorable scene with  sensitivity and humanity. ■

Manhattan screens at Cinéma du Parc Friday, Oct. 19, 9pm and Saturday, Oct. 20, 3 p.m. as part of their newest retrospective The Complete Woody Allen. The film is also available to rent pretty much everywhere on the planet Earth.

Leave a Reply