Friday, February 10, 2012

Woody Allen's Manhattan

Paragraph 1: George Gershwin's iconic Rhapsody in Blue plays over pristine black and white images of classic New York tableau ... (nah, too declarative. And "iconic" and "classic" in the same line? Bleah.).

Let's see ... Paragraph 1: If you could only choose one movie opening to say everything there is to say about a city and person who lived in it ... (mmm. Who am I, Bill Moyers?)

Uh. Paragraph 1: Woody Allen, in his day, was New York City's biggest fan and greatest ambassador. In his love letter to Gotham, Manhattan, he can be found making some bold, and pitch-perfect artistic choices, even within the first three minutes. (Oooh, I love this ...). Truly one of the great opening scenes in the history of cinema, we start with the New York Philharmonic playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Need anything more be said about that piece? The voice over, often considered a sign of laziness in a screenwriter, here isn't really a voice over at all. It's just Isaac Davis struggling to come up with a paragraph to open his oft-promised, never-started novel. Black and white, was there ever a more flattering way to depict images seriously? (Wait, where the hell am I even going with this? Maybe I should try Queens).

I just learned that my favorite Woody Allen film, Manhattan, is being released on Blu-Ray. I am looking forward to sharper blacks, crisper whites, clearer jazz, and the same sharp crit of pseudo-intellectual bourgeoisie and urban male neuroses that I was so captivated by when I first watched it amongst other film geeks in college. But most of all, I am looking forward to this in high-definition:

Isaac Davis's darkened apartment, he descending a spiral staircase, and his 17 year old girlfriend, played by a sublime Mariel Hemingway, seated far to the left, thumbing through an oversized book. Both are bathed in the only light sources, reading lamps, in the room. Man I love that image, a portrait of a man wandering through his things, struggling to find his way through mid-life, destination known.

Now more than ever, I feel like I live in that darkened room.

1 comment:

M.Lane said...

That is one great movie. And one really great scene.