Despite what the plot might tell you, “Manhattan” is a love letter to the city it is named after. It is about a one-sided love affair between Woody Allen and a city that never sleeps – how New York made him who he is and why he can’t live without it. The culture, the diversity, the attitude of the city is wrapped up so much in Woody Allen’s life that he can’t imagine a world without New York. But he’s also so committed to having only one love in his life, in this case he loves a city more than anything else, that he bumbles through the other loves he could have, including the love of a 17-year old girl (Mariel Hemingway) and his best friends’ mistress (Diane Keaton).
What sells “Manhattan” is the beautiful black-and-white cinematography of the city. Each shot gives the city its own character, never focusing on the people but rather the architecture or billboards or fireworks, always to breathtaking effect like Brooklyn Bridge cast in the fog. The love that Allen has for the city is put on display like one of the paintings in the Museum of Modern Art that Allen and his uppity friends would discuss. While this just as much of a reflection of Allen trying to separate himself from the city, the film takes an artistic look at how New York is a simple town, where everything is black-or-white, and Allen discovers that life doesn’t share that same quality.
Final Grade: B+