Manhattan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 31, 2012 by  

“Manhattan” is a romantic comedy and Woody Allen masterpiece that is a timeless classic!  Featuring wonderful cinematography, music, witty dialogue and memorable one-liners and a true Woody Allen classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 1979 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Manhattan


DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Black and White, Widescreen 2:35:1, English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY:MGM/20th Century fox

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2012

Directed by Woody Allen

Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

Produced by Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins

Executive Producer: Robert Greenhut

Cinematography by Gordon Willis

Edited by Susan E. Morse

Casting by Juliet Taylor

Production Design by Mel Bourne

Set Decoration by Robert Drumheller

Costume Design by Albert Wolsky


Woody Allen as Isaac

Diane Keaton as Mary

Michael Murphy as Yale

Mariel Hemingway as Tracy

Meryl Streep as Jill

Anne Byrne Hoffman as Emily

Karen Ludwig as Connie

Michael O’Donoghue as DenniNominated for two Academy Awards * in 1979 and considered “one of Allen’s most enduring accomplishments” (Boxoffice), Manhattan is a wry, touching and finely rendered portrait of modern relationships against the backdrop of urban alienation. Sumptuously photographed in black and white (Allen’s first film in that format) and accompanied by a magnificent Gershwin score, Woody Allen’s aesthetic triumph is a “prismatic portrait of a time and a place that may be studied decades hence” (Time). 42-year-old Manhattan native Isaac Davis (Allen) has a job he hates, a seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), he doesn’t love and a lesbian ex-wife, Jill (Meryl Streep), who’s writing a tell-all book about their marriage and whom he’d like to strangle. But when he meets his best friend’s sexy intellectual mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton), Isaac falls head over heels in lust! Leaving Tracy, bedding Mary and quitting his job are just the beginning of Isaac’s quest for romance and fulfillment in a city where sex is as intimate as a handshake and the gateway to true love is a revolving door. *Supporting Actress (Hemingway); Original Screenplay

With the success of Woody Allen’s first drama in 1978 with “Interiors”, Woody Allen returned to the romantic comedy the following year with “Manhattan”.

Always a filmmaker who is willing to give different cinematic techniques a try, Woody Allen and cinematographer Gordon Willis  decided to why not shoot a black and white film and also shoot in anamorphic widescreen.

The film would feature a wonderful cast which would include Allen,  Diane Keaton (“Annie Hall”, “Interiors”, “The Godfather” films) Michael Murphy (“Batman Returns”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”, “Magnolia”), Mariel Hemingway (“Star 80”, “The Sex Monster”) and Meryl Streep (“The Devil Wears Prada”, “Doubt”, “Adaptation”, “Out of Africa”).

The film was an amazing success earning $39.9 million in the box office, the 17th highest-grossing picture of 1979, was lauded by film critics and was voted for a plethora of awards, featured at #46 in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Laughs” and in 2001, selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress who deemed the film as “culturally significant”.

And what is most amazing about the film’s success is that after completion of the film, Woody Allen was so unhappy and disappointed with the film that he asked United Artists not to release the film.  In fact, Allen offered to make a movie for free if they would throw the film away.

In this case, it worked for the benefit of the studio to go with the film and whether or not Woody Allen agrees, many consider it among his top masterpiece within his long list of films in his oeuvre.

“Manhattan” begins with the music of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and we are introduced to writer Isaac Davis (played by Wood Allen) who has been wanting to write about his love for New York City.

Davis is a 42-years-old, a television writer who has been divorced twice and and not enjoying his life.  But he is dating a beautiful young 17-year-old named Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway).

But Davis’ friends are also not in the happiest times of their marriages.

His friend Yale (played by Michael Murphy) who is married to Emily (played by Anne Byrne) but is having an affair with Mary Wilkie (played by Diane Keaton), also a divorcee.  Meanwhile, Isaac’s ex-wife Jill (played by Meryl Streep) is planning to write a book about their marriage and how she came out of the closet as a lesbian and is currently living with her partner Connie (played by Karen Ludwig).

When Isaac hooks up with his friend Yale and is introduced to Mary, needless to say, he finds her to be a snob and is turned off.  During an Equal Rights Amendment fundraising event at the Museum of Modern Art, the two share a cab together and begin talking throughout the night and early morning.

Isaac begins to realize that he is falling for Mary, but yet is dating Tracy.  Feeling that dating a younger woman will not work, he encourages to pursue to study acting in London.  When Isaac finds out Yale has broken up with Mary, immediately he decides to go for Mary and breakup with Tracy.  But what happens when Yale decides to end his marriage with Emily and continue his relationship with Mary?  What about Isaac?   Did he make the wrong decision by dumping Tracy for Mary?


“Manhattan” is presented in 1080p High Definition, black and white (widescreen 2:35:1).  Having owned the previous DVD release of the film, I’m proud to say that Woody Allen’s classic looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray!

While not 100% pristine as there are some white specks that can be seen, still…the picture quality looks clean, contrast levels are fantastic, black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels are also well-done and very sharp.  There is also a fine layer of grain.

But possibly the biggest difference that previous DVD owner’s will notice with this Blu-ray release is the amount of detail that is evident.  You can see the details on the clothing, the detail on the character’s faces.  I was pretty surprised of how good the picture quality of this film was in HD.  Absolutely fantastic!


“Manhattan” is presented in English mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish mono and French mono.  With that being said, this lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven and while there is music featured in the film (and the music sounds very good), this is pretty much a front channel 2.0 monaural soundtrack.  I didn’t hear any hiss, crackling or any problems with the soundtrack.


For those not familiar with Woody Allen films, aside from the recent “Midnight in Paris” Blu-ray release, none of his films on DVD or Blu-ray contain special features aside from the theatrical trailer.

Captivating, witty and definitely a Woody Allen masterpiece!

Whether or not what Allen may think, considering he did all he can to have this film shelved.  But while I’ve read many interviews of what made him feel that way, I would probably have to say it was probably director’s exhaustion of working  on a project for too long and also being a perfectionist and feeling it wasn’t good enough.

But similar to how I felt about “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan” is a film that I absolute love for its witty banter, its characters and one-liners that Woody Allen that still make me laugh each time I watch this movie (the “Van-Gah” and Fellini one-liner continues to make me laugh out loud to this day).

An apart from the performances and writing,”Manhattan” to me, is a romantic comedy that captures the romantic side of New York City through its wonderful wide shots and composition. Add the music of Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic with beautiful pieces such as “Oh, Lady Be Good”, “‘S Wonderful”, “Love is Here to Stay” and Gary Graffman’s memorable score of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to name a few.

Bare in mind, this is in the 1970’s and from films such as “Taxi Driver” to “Saturday Night Fever” had always captured the more rugged side of the city.  From focusing on a variety of locations and shooting in black and white, “Manhattan” looks romantic and beautiful.  And this is where we see Woody Allen, the director at his best.  Choreographed scenes that are carefully planned and pulled off with amazing efficacy.

In some ways, this film does getter with time.  And I mean that by saying how I seem to enjoy this film the older I get.  From watching this film for the first time in my late teens and now at the age of 40, there is always something new that I pick up with this film and find myself understanding the character of Isaac (played by Woody Allen) much more.  Even a little bit of the character of Yale.  And I think this film helps people reflect on past decisions, specifically poor ones that come back to bite you in the ass.

As for the Blu-ray release, having owned this film on DVD, you can’t help but notice the clarity and detail of “Manhattan” in HD.  The picture is absolutely fantastic and despite the Blu-ray not having any special features (as nearly all Woody Allen films do not have except the recently released “Midnight In Paris”), this Blu-ray release is definitely worth the upgrade.

Overall, “Manhattan” is a romantic comedy and Woody Allen masterpiece that is a timeless classic!  Featuring wonderful cinematography, music, witty dialogue and memorable one-liners and a true Woody Allen classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

Highly recommended!

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