Sunday, September 11, 2011

Post 9/11 Film Disorder: I'll Take "Manhattan"

Forgive me if I come off a bit cranky here, but I'll admit it: the 10th anniversary of the atrocity of September 11, 2001 has weighed heavily upon me. Living and working in the shadow of the great city, it is the "go-to" place for everything new, better, delicious, glamorous, beautiful and fun. It still is that place, but like a beautiful person who  sustained a life-threatening injury, the scar remains.

Maybe there have been good movies that tell this story, but I haven't seen them. It's only natural that this story should be told on film, but frankly, I couldn't bear to watch it. Instead, I opted to spend some time today watching the most beautiful love letter to New York: Woody Allen's 1979 masterpiece, "Manhattan."
The Sights of Manhattan
Filmed in beautiful black and white, Allen and cinematographer Gordon Willis capture the fearsome, romantic beauty of the city in 1979.

The Music
The music is a major character in this film and Gershwin is the perfect choice, hands down. You can take your pick of the greatest composer of that golden era: Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein - but Gershwin personifies the sound of New York. Rhapsody in Blue? All of the romance, ambition, pressure, energy and dreams of a city in one musical piece. 

The Characters
Woody Allen: Issac Davis - neurotic nucleolus of a bunch of other neurotics. Issac is a writer who loves Manhattan, jazz and the wrong women.
Diane Keaton: Mary Wilkie - lover of Issac's best friend, Issac's lover and nutty to the core (in her own delightful way, of course). The scenes of their short-lived romance (running in the rain to the planetarium, sitting at the foot of the 59th Street Bridge) are among Woody's best and most touching.
Michael Murphy: Yale - Woody's professor friend and cheating husband. His midlife crisis propels him towards a mistress and a sports car.
Meryl Streep: Jill - Woody's lesbian ex-wife who writes an embarrassing tell-all book about their marriage. Meryl is hilarious and quite beautiful here.
Mariel Hemingway: Tracy - the 17-year old adult who outgrows Issac. Tracy is the heart of this story and much too mature for those "adults" who love to manufacture problems because the real problems are just to horrible to face.
There is that disturbing premonition of the attraction to the young girl. Well, to hell with it. Chaplin had the same hang-up and I can't let it stop me from loving him.

I really don't care what Woody has done in his private life and I am tired of hearing it. If we limit ourselves to the work of artists who live morally exemplary lives, we'd only be listening to Pat Boone and watching - well, no one. As long as he doesn't eat babies or become a Nazi, I will follow Woody's every move as an artist. He is now making his Rome movie and I will be one of the first on line to see it, as I was with "Match Point," "Vicky Christina Barcelona," and the fabulous "Midnight in Paris." But, Woody, seriously, it's been too long. Come home.


Edna's Place said...

Good to get it out. You'll never going to forget. And with you living close to where it happened, I can see everyone there taking it more personally. I know it happened and I watched it play out on TV the day it happened, like millions of others.

But I never been to New York. The only time I really feel the lost of the towers is when I see a film, like Woody Allen's.

I love his films. He captured New York so well, at least his New York. I never been to New York so I have no personal feeling or connection to it. (Well, my only personal connect is the fact Edna's husband Jack grew up there and Edna and Jack both lived there for a while.) But that's through research not actually being there.

But I'm really glad for directors like Woody to bring NYC to the rest of us. Besides that, he is a great director.

Thanks for the post.

FlickChick said...

Thank you so much, Linda. I am so happy to hear you say that you think Woody is a great director. He's taken such a bad rap, but I just love him. He is poignant and he makes me laugh out loud while producing beautiful films.

Edna and Jack lived in NYC? Was it because of his job?

Edna's Place said...

They lived near the airport, but yes, because of Jack's work. He was a pilot for American Airways (former American Airlines) and Pan Am. New York City was one of the many places he worked. Use to fly cross country, to Britain, and South and Central America. In those days Pan AM was a pretty tight family. Jack was either captain or co-pilot on many flights, including some of the rare Clipper ships of the day.

He spent a good deal of his childhood growing up in Brooklyn. His mother was back there too and they were very close (like Edna was with her mother). Lots of family connections for Jack and new people Edna got to know.

And Woody was great! Woody and Chaplin both had there own unique style that carried through all their films (and had similar personal issues). It's hard to find a Woody Allen film I don't like. Looking forward to seeing his latest.

FlickChick said...

Oh - thank you for this information! I wonder which airport? Back in their day they would have been Idelwild (now JFK) or Curtiss or North Beach (now LaGuardia). I'll bet it was La Guardia. In that case, Edna & Jack may have lived very near where I work! How exciting!

Anonymous said...

I understand completely . I just couldn't take watching all those clips,and videos again. Still hurts too much.
Anyway ,I watched this movie too. Good choice!

FlickChick said...

It was a tough day - I'd rather see New York through a great movie.

ClassicBecky said...

FlickChick, I couldn't agree with you more about the wonderful movie (what glorious pictures you posted!) Woody Allen is a true genius in writing and directing, and I don't care about his perosnal life. Fans of movie actors and makers can never know more than we see in media, and unless they are axe murderers, it doesn't affect my feeling about their work. My favorite, Errol Flynn, had a colorful life, but it is his work and wonderful roles that I love - I don't know the man! Picasso was an SOB, Otto Preminger was a bully -- who cares? It's the work that counts for us.

It was a hard day yesterday. I did a little tribute myself to express the feelings I have -- like you, I just had to some something! Your article is an inspired way to remember New York.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Becky!It was a hard day for sure, but great movies like "West Side Story" and Woody's "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall" made it better.

The Lady Eve said...

I'm with you 100% FlickChick - on your choice of "Manhattan" in the midst of the Sept. 11 anniversary and on Woody Allen as an artist.

One of my favorite Woody Allen films is "Hannah and Her Sisters" (what a cast!) also set in Manhattan and also featuring sublime music (Rodgers & Hart, Jerome Kern, etc., + Puccini).

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - love that choice, too - in fact that has one of my most favorite scene from any of his films. I love when, in despair, he goes to a Marx Brothers movie ("Duck Soup") and finds a reason to live. I'm sure this scene speaks to all movie lovers.

DorianTB said...

Flick Chick, being a native New Yorker and having spent most of my life in New York City (specifically Manhattan and the Bronx) and having lived through the tragic events of 9/11/2001 with my family, I can well understand why you and so many others would rather commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with one of Woody Allen's best movies. MANHATTAN is a fine choice, showcasing not only the beautiful city, but also its quirky denizens. You did a wonderful job of it with your endearing love letter to MANHATTAN in both real life and the movies!

P.S.: If you're interested, here's a link to my own blog post about how our family and friends fared that day (didn't lose any loved ones, thank heavens). But if you've had enough of 9/11 for now, I can certainly understand that, too!

FlickChick said...

Thank you so much, Dorain! I will certainly check out your post. It was a day we can never, ever forget.