"I'm honest, whaddaya want? I say what's
on my mind, and, if you can't take it, well
then, fuck off!!!!!!!!!!"--Diane Keaton, as
Mary Wilkie in "Manhattan" (1979).
Were this post about me, it would be entitled "Manhattan....34 Years Later." Come December 1 of this year, that is how long I will have been living in New York, on the other side of the Hudson River, from Jersey, where I was born and raised. But it is not. It is about the experience of recently seeing Woody Allen's classic 1979 film at the Film Forum.
Like everyone, back in 1979, I saw "Manhattan" when it came out. My first viewing of it was at the Menlo Park Cinema, in Jersey, then the most sophisticated film venue in the area, with a really large screen.
Of course, back then, I saw the film as my life, in the direction I so wanted it to go. And, as some know on here, that was a tough year for me, my mother having died in April of that year. So that "Manhattan" was able to knock me out was both amazing, or says something about my youthful resilience. I am not so sure I have that, now.
According to my records, I last saw this film, back in 2007. Ten years. An entire decade. And much has happened--most of it good--over that span of time, to me, in my life.
As I watched "Manhattan" the other day, I felt steeped in the milieu of its characters. Book lined apartments, eating out, art museums, reading, writing--I have it done it all, though I have not resorted to the literary whoredom that Mary does, in writing movie novelizations to pay the bills. But who knows about novelizations, anymore? Do they exist?????????
Diane Keaton, as Mary Wilkie, has the best line in the entire film. I wondered if her last name was a riff on the writer Marie Rainer Rilke, and it most likely was. It was also the character I felt most connected to, because, really, I believe, at least to myself, that that is what I have become, and that line could be a personal mantra. It is just as true about me as about Mary!!!!!!!!!
After seeing so many films with great visuals, I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to see "Manhattan," where visual and verbal beauty connect. Look at this shot! Stunning! And that is just one of many. How many films out there today use words like "didacticism," cohesiveness," and
"fluidity?" How many Millennials know what they mean? Or that words like these actually exist??????? They don't, and my point is further proven because the audience at the screening I attended was one of largely Baby Boomers, or older. The Millennials??????? Were they to see this film, they would not know what hit them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I had forgotten film could offer such visual and auditory pleasure that I was fairly intoxicated by the time "Manhattan" ended. It is an experience one gets from films of the past, rather than the present.
I know what you really want me to talk about. The whole Mariel Hemingway-Tracy thing. I had forgotten that Mariel, who was very good, received an Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actress) here--the only actor from the film to do so. And, in a couple of scenes, there is this long haired blonde who is stunning, and, one can see, is clearly on her way up. The audience at the screening I was at gasped. Because the actress is someone who did arrive--and then some. I am talking, of course, about Meryl Streep.
But back to the whole Tracy thing. Yes, Mariel was great, though some scenes made me uncomfortable back then, and even more so, now. But this is due, I think to what we now know about Woody himself. Remember, this was before the whole Soon-Yi thing. Now, she is outmoded, she is 46! But what I did not know, before I researched for this post, was that Tracy was based on an actual person. That person was actress Stacey Nelkin, whom Woody was dating, back when she was a student at New York's Stuyvesant High School!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, he was doing it, even back then! Creep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Behavior can be dissed, artistry cannot be dismissed. Woody was at the top of his game, when he made this--and "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan," in that order, remain my favorites of his films.
Which the recent Film Forum viewing proved. Not only does it hold up, like other masterworks, it gets better with each viewing.
While I almost always end my posts on a ringing phrase, I have a better one here. Listen to George Gershwin's masterpiece, "Rhapsody In Blue," used, along with other of his works, throughout the film. It is my favorite 20th century musical composition!!!!!!!!!!!!