When: Sept. 7-8 2013
You could debate endlessly the relative merits of the 40-plus films Woody Allen has made, but you’d have a hard time convincing me he ever conceived a better opening than the first four minutes of 1979’s Manhattan. Cinematographer Gordon Willis’ stunning black-and-white aerial and street shots of the city stream by to the strains of George Gershwin’s impossibly grand Rhapsody in Blue, as the voice of writer Isaac Davis (Allen) ponders several versions of the opening chapter of his love letter to New York City. Sights, sounds and words combine to create one of the cinema’s truly magical moments. In many ways, the film is a companion piece to his 1977 breakthrough Annie Hall, though in that work the drama served Allen’s comic ambitions, whereas in Manhattan, it’s the other way around. I watched it last week for the first time in many years, and what struck me most was Mariel Hemingway’s performance, a nuanced mix of precociousness and vulnerability that is positively breathtaking. Manhattan is the first installment of the September edition of the Belcourt’s Weekend Classics series, which will include three other Allen films in upcoming weekends: Bananas, Sleeper and Crimes and Misdemeanors.