Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) is a TV writer, frustrated in both career and his lovelife. An on-off affair with teenage drama student Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) is blighted by his anxiety about their age difference, whilst his attraction to the pretentious Mary (Diane Keaton) is complicated by the fact that she is already having an affair with his married friend Yale (Michael Murphy). Meanwhile, his lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep) prepares to dish the dirt about their marriage in a forthcoming book. Often cited as Allen's masterpiece, 'Manhattan' features a George Gershwin soundtrack.
, Woody Allen's follow-up to Oscar-winning Annie Hall
, is a film of many distinctions: its glorious all-Gershwin score, its breathtakingly elegant black-and-white, widescreen cinematography by Gordon Willis (best-known for shooting the Godfather
movies); its deeply shaded performances; its witty screenplay that marked a new level in Allen's artistic maturity; and its catalogue of Things that Make Life Worth Living. Allen's "Rhapsody in Gray" concerns, as his own character puts it, "people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these real, unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves, because it keeps them from dealing with more insoluble, terrifying problems about the universe". It's a romantic comedy about infidelity and betrayal, the rules of love and friendship, young girls (a radiant and sweet Mariel Hemingway) and older men (Allen), innocence, and sophistication. (a favourite phrase is used to describe a piece of sculpture at the Guggenheim: "It has a marvellous kind of negative capability".) The film's themes can be summed up in two key lines: "I can't believe you met somebody you like better than me", and "It's very important to have some kind of personal integrity". OK, so they may not sound like such sparkling snatches of brilliant dialogue, but Manhattan
puts those ideas across with such emotion that you feel an ache in your heart. --Jim Emerson