Woody Allen's valentine/ode to the city captures New York at its most iconic, framing its skyscrapers and other landmarks with lavish care and setting its pace to the rhythm of George Gershwin's melodies. In addition to being Allen's most visually striking film (thanks in large part to Gordon Willis' gorgeous black-and-white photography), Manhattan is also one of his most satisfying, considered by many his greatest achievement. A deeply funny exploration of love, guilt, and everything in-between, the film matches its humor with poignancy. Rather than provide caricatures of urban professionals who think too much for their own good, Allen gives us full-blooded individuals whose anxiety is matched only by their complexity. Even the most incidental, unseen characters, such as Mary's psychiatrist (who telephones her at 3 a.m., weeping) have a rare vibrancy and dimensions all their own. Many critics who reviewed Manhattan at the time of its release remarked that it reflected Allen's growth as a filmmaker, providing a more compassionate, clear-eyed exploration of themes that he had examined in Interiors and Annie Hall, his two previous efforts. Manhattan effectively promoted Allen to the upper echelons of the director/screenwriter realm; a triumphant synthesis of old-fashioned style and modern sensibility, it defined both a director and a genre, setting new standards for the urban comedy.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review