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Manhattan [DVD] [1979]

For what is arguably Woody Allen's best film to date, MGM has put together an embarrassingly sparse package. Excepting the original trailer and the obvious scene and language selection, this DVD release contains no other special features. Given the director's idiosyncrasies, not much could be expected in the form of a commentary or mini-documentary. Nevertheless, the two page "collector's booklet" covering the origins of the film, including quotes from Allen himself, could have been incorporated digitally instead. Including biographies and/or filmographies for the main performers would have been appreciated. The DVD format brings out the best in the film's glorious cinematography. The black-and-white image is crisp (leveled well with the contrasts of gray, shadows, and light) and is presented in anamorphic widescreen, though there is a choice of other ratios as well. Though the inevitable scratches and grain appear in only bright daylight scenes, the overall picture is the cleanest it has ever been to home viewers. The Dolby Digital Sound is good for being in mono (another one of Allen's quirks), showcasing the witty dialogue. The Gershwin soundtrack is able to shine through now and again, and the buzzing New York street sounds do make an appearance as well. Although the brilliance of Manhattan is enough to recommend this disc, it would have been nice to see MGM compile some simple supporting elements to make a more comprehensive package.

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    Special Features

    • Collectible booklet
    • Original theatrical trailer


    On the heels of Annie Hall, the Oscar-winning romantic comedy that rocketed Woody Allen to the front ranks of American filmmakers, Manhattan continued Allen's romantic obsessions in a slightly darker, more pessimistic vein. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a TV comedy writer sick of the pap he is forced to churn out and harboring dreams of being the great American novelist. His love life is in barbed-wire territory: he is tormented by his second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), a lesbian who has written a tell-all book about their marriage, and he is dating teenager Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), to whom he refuses to commit, and keeps hinting that a breakup may be imminent. Isaac's disillusioned (and married) best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) has begun an affair with the cerebral writer Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton). While Isaac makes a last minute, sink-or-swim decision to quit his job and devote all of his time to book writing, and neurotically moans about what the lack of a full time job will do to him ("My parents won't have as good of a seat in the synagogue," he moans. "They'll be far away from God... away from the action") Yale is crippled by his lack of resolve, as indicated by his inability to leave his wife Emily (Anne Byrne). Meanwhile, Isaac and Mary begin to fall for one another. Tracy then tells Isaac the basic truth that none of his hung-up friends and past lovers fully realizes: "You have to have a little more faith in people." Manhattan is both a seriocomic dissection of perpetually dissatisfied New Yorkers and an ode to the city itself, filmed in glorious black-and-white by ace cinematographer Gordon Willis, and set to a score of rhapsodic George Gershwin music. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Woody Allen
      Woody Allen - Isaac Davis
    • Diane Keaton
      Diane Keaton - Mary Wilke
    • Michael Murphy
      Michael Murphy - Yale
    • Mariel Hemingway
      Mariel Hemingway - Tracy
    • Meryl Streep
      Meryl Streep - Jill

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