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Manhattan

Year: 1979
Production Co: Jack Rollins & Charles H Joffe Productions
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Mariel Hemingway, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Anne Byrne, Meryl Streep, Karen Allen, Wallace Shawn, Tobin Bell

I'm not that familiar with Allen's output prior to either this movie or Annie Hall, but I've seen one or two of his really old movies, and where Annie Hall seems to be the film where he introduced the approach he'd still be using to this day, Manhattan is where he cemented it and made it his own.

To the extent that most of Allen's work can be described as intellectual neurotics falling in and out of love while its vagaries form a comedy of errors around them, all set against a Jazz-tinged Big Apple, Manhattan is the prototype.

Isaac (Allen) is hoping to make real art while he toils as a writer for a moronic TV show. He's dating 17 year old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway – was she ever this young?), which he knows is wrong, but she forms an effective part of the quartet he has with best friends, married couple Yale (Michael Murphy) and Emily (Anne Byrne), arguing about art and relationships over dinner, seeing shows and galleries and generally complaining about and celebrating life.

Isaac knows Yale is being unfaithful, and when he inadvertantly meets his friend's mistress, the outspoken and extremely liberal Mary (Diane Keaton), at first he can't stand her.

As we'd know full well not just from Allen's work over subsequent decades but from every lazy romcom that's ever come out of Hollywood, that's a recipe for romance, and Isaac soon finds himself drawn inextricably to Mary's charms as they grow on him.

It gives him a reason to extricate himself from his relationship with Tracy and Mary an excuse to break away from the cliché she's living as Yale's other woman.

Of course, this being Woody Allen, nothing is ever that simple, and hearts are tossed around like paper boats on a stormy ocean all the while the characters deal with the rest of life – in Isaac's case, his now-lesiban ex wife Jill (Meryl Streep) writing a book about how terrible their marriage and sex life was.

New York is as much a character as any human, the city shot in shrouded tones in reverently classic black and white by cinematographer Gordon Willis (including the famous shot of the Brooklyn Bridge from the water's edge), and the gatling gun patter that gives Allen and his writing such a follwing is as familiar as the locations.

Who'd have thought how autobiographical it would all become a couple of decades later when it emerged that Allen had been cheating on his then partner Mia Farrow (who he got together with after a relationship with Manhattan co-star Keaton) with their adopted daughter while she was still a teenager.

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