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May 24, 1979 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-24

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Page 6-Thursday, May 24, 1979-The Michigan Daily
New York as never before

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
I have a confession to make: As one
of the three or four most devoted Woody
Allen fans in Western Civilization (I've
even seen What's New, Pussycat?
several times!) I never expected
Woody to come up with anything as
superbly moving as Manhattan. Not
that Annie Hall didn't put me on Cloud
Nine for about a month. But Manhattan
offers something more: This bitter-
sweet paean to Manhattan-the city of
dreams and nightmares-goes beyond
the cool stylistic realism of Interiors,
blending not only comedy and
"serious" drama, but the often
unremarkable pain of reality with an
exhilarating, mystic sort of roman-
ticism. It shows people feeding off a
city that batters them black and blue. It
shows them clinging to their neuroses
and petty foibles as desperately and
deliberately as they want to be rid of
them.

Though Manhattan is hardly a
definitive vision of contemporary
American life, it's awesomely com-
plete. Woody Allen's artistry is less
related to his preoccupations with love,
death, and betrayal than to his genius
at portraying the joys and struggles of
daily life in all their wonderous com-
plexity.
LIKE INTERIORS, Manhattan is a
superbly controlled chamber play ren-
dered with eloquent simplicity. Woody
Allen has to be the least showy of'
American directors. There isn't an ex-
traneous shot or line of dialogue. The
scenes' well-focused emotional textures
come together effortlessly-like planes
in an intricately-fashioned diamond.
Most of Manhattan has been shot in in-
terior settings and penetrating close-
up, but it's anything but a
claustrophobic drama. Actors swirl in
and out of the frame, forming

gracefully realistic tableaux. And the
film's embellishments-from Gordon
Willis' elegant black-and-white
cinematography and the rich roman-
ticism of the Gershwin score to real-life
details like Elaine's, the Museum of -
Modern Art, and her nibs Bella Ab-
zug-blend harmoniously to create a
richly fictional world.
The film's title is an obvious
indication of Allen's spiritual sour-
ce. Manhattan's whole texture is deter-
minedly regional. This isn't a "New
York movie" in the way An Unmarried
Woman, with all its trendy Soho-
chicness, is. But the characters
shouldn't always be seen as latter-day
Everymen on the homefront. They're
new Yorkers, and their mutual lifestyle
relates not only to the movie's
"touches" but to its overall psychology
as well.
THE CHARACTERS are a talented,

~~P E T HE-I MIRISCH CORPORATION PRESENTS
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affluent, and largely affable group. 42-
year-old Isaac (Woody Allen) is a
moral idealist in a world losing its
moral character. He quits his job as a
television comedy writer because he's
had it with selling out, and embarks on
a novel about life in Manhattan. His ex-
wife (Meryl Streep), who has left him
for a woman, is also writing a book,
only hers is an account of their
marriage in which she assails him as a
narcissistic misanthrope subject to
pangs of "Jewish-liberal paranoia."
Mariel Hemingway, a glamorous
high-cheekboned beauty, plays Isaac's
17-year-old girlfriend Tracy as a con-
vincing television-generation teenager
without (thank God) acting like she
just walked off the set of One Day at a
Time. Isaac keeps warning her the
more she falls for him. Yale (Michael
Murphy), Isaac's best friend, is an
English professor and writer (most
likely for something like The New York
Review of Books) who wears clear-
rimmed glasses, satin jackets, and an
expression of perpetual dissatisfaction.
He has himself mired in conflicts,
promising to write a biography of
Eugene O'Neill (everyone in the movie
appears to have a book in the works)
and squandering his energy shopping
for a fancy sports car, preaching
devotion to his wife (Anne Byrne) while
in the thick of a fling with a neurotic
journalist (Diane Keaton) that is one-
third affection, two-thirds shattered
nerves. As Mary, a brilliant but
pathetically insecure "Philadelphia
girl," Keaton was never lovelier, and
her frizzy hair style seems to spring
right from the character's wit's-end
lifestyle.
THE CENTRAL relationship in Annie
Hall often seemed a marriage of con-
venience (not for the characters, for the
film); in Manhattan, people cling to each
other out of frightened desperation, a
kind of love Annie Hall only hinted at in
the scene wherein Alvy comes over to
Annie's at 3:00 in the morning to fighta
giant spider. It's a high-strung, fraz-
zled universe, the uglier side of the
"pulsating hustle and bustle" the
characters thrive on.
As a carnival of the sexes, Manhattan
had all the glorious folly of Smiles of a
Summer Night. But some of the
relationships are so fragmentary that
unbroken love can be a destructive sur-
prise. Yale ends his affair with Mary
point-blank when their mutual lack of
commitment begins driving them both
crazy. Later, after she's hooked into an
idyllic affair with Isaac, Yale wants
her back, and we see him begging like
an abandoned mutt, stranded in an
isolated phonebooth as alone as a
human being can get.
ALLEN'S MANHATTAN is a place
where intellectual double-talk and the
jargon of popular culture are converted
into a palpable lifestyle. The film is
sprinkled with snippets of cutting social
satire: At a black-tie ERA function in
the garden of the Museum of Modern
Art, a middle-aged nebbish babbles
about some "devastating" satirical

AWAUtE MIRISCH PRUUULCIUN
Also stang LYNNE FREDERICK LIONEL JEFFRIES ELKE SOMMER GREGORY SIERRAJEREMY KEMP CATHERINE SCHELL
Senplay byDICKCLEMENT and IAN LA FRENAIS ed on the novel by ANTHONY HOPE as tiamatired by EDWARD ROSE Music by HENRY MANCINI
Special Visual Efects by ALBERT WHITLOCK Produced by WALTER MIRISCH liectby RICHARD QUINE A UNIVERSAL PICTURE
11979 VNVERSAG CITY STUDIOS. INC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED[16 U AG S00
TA E34 231 south stote ,ST TETAR6iN
TOMORROW NlTE

See NAMESAKE, Page 7

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