Again, a movie I thought I knew something about but was completely off on. Manhattan is a sort of cynical and sort of sweet exploration of what love is in the adult world. Woody Allen is a sort of anti-hero who judges the world around him while committing indiscretions of his own.
The film starts with Isaac (Woody Allen) and his 17 year old girlfriend (Muriel Hemingway) having dinner with his best friend Yale and his wife of 12 years. Soon we learn that Yale is having an affair with Mary, a writer and that Isaac’s ex wife left him for another woman. Their son lives with the women.
Yale justifies his past affairs as inconsequential and Isaac condemns infidelity. Yale says his current affair is more serious. Isaac and his young girlfriend meet her at a gallery. Isaac’s girlfriend loves him but he can’t take her serious because of her age despite her obvious maturity and depth. It is she who is the heroin of the film.
Yale ends the affair, Isaac becomes involved with Mary, and casts his girlfriend away. Yale and Mary become involved again and cast Yale’s wife and Isaac aside. Isaac realizes that he made a mistake and tries to reconcile with his girlfriend, but she is on her way to London. She will return in six months and says to him that six months is not that long if they love each other and that he shouldn’t worry because everyone gets corrupted. He smiles and the movie ends.
If anything, Isaac’s callousness in ending his relationship is preferable to lying about an affair. And yet, none of them are innocent, except the one who hasn’t had time to be corrupted yet. One has to wonder if the pain he caused her was not the first stage of the end of her innocence.
The theme song, Rhapsody in Blue, came to Gershwin complete as he rode the train. He wrote it down from memory before he ever heard it. It was divinely inspired and to my ear, it is perfect.