Blu-Ray Review: MANHATTAN (1979)
Woody Allen and DP Gordon Willis treat New York City as if they were portraying a beautiful woman: every shape, shadow, form and movement are displayed through the stunning high contrast only black and white cinema is capable of. The iconic George Gershwin score in the opening sequence describes a city that goes from being completely subtle and inviting to a manic chaos of hectiness, is opulent and poor, beautifully flawed, and this is one of the most haunting and magnificent homages to it ever made.
The characters that inhabit it are no different, but even portrayed in black and white, it is the tints of grey in their personas what makes them fascinating, as it is in all Allen’s films. They are neither good or bad, moral or immoral, they are unique in the way they perceive the world, they make awful choices after what they think is the “right” thing to do, but it never is at the end, they are selfish, human, and you can’t take your eyes away from them. There’s no predictability about what happens next, that’s what I find so incredible refreshing about a film made over thirty years ago.
I already owned it on DVD, and seeing it in Blu-Ray was just stunning. The use of photography and the framing are flawless, we get a sense of dimensionality without any color, just strategically placed objects, and a use of light and contrast I still find mesmerazing. It also kept its original aspect ratio, an element that adds to it in my opinion.
This is a must-see film for everyone, Allen creates a timeless universe in a city that’s always evolving in reality, filled with charming characters that, even fictional, are filled with such humanity that stick with you after the credits are done.
The first lines on this film are: “He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion.” And we can tell.