Tuesday, March 9, 2010


There is a Blockbuster’s worth of "classic" movies I haven't seen, and a record store’s worth of "classic" albums. Thankfully I now have Netflix, and BitTorrent. I am attempting to fill in those gaps. Please do not leave comments saying "zomg, i can't believe u haven't seen/heard _____." Please do send suggestions.


There’s a scene near the end of “Manhattan” in which Woody Allen lounges on a couch talking into a tape recorder. He’s listing things worth living for: Cezzane’s apples and pears, Marlon Brando, the second movement of “Jupiter.” The last item on the list, which he admits only after a long pause, is “Tracy’s face.”

Tracy, it must now be noted, is the 17-going-on-18-year old with whom Allen, closer to AARP benefits than high school graduation, has an obviously problematic dalliance. We watch with a strange mix of relief and horror as Allen breaks off the tryst to begin a relationship with a woman more his age - a woman who is also the “other woman” in his best friend’s marriage.

In fact, the only affair that never wanes from the opening scene, when Gershwin punctuates still images of the Manhattan skyline, is with New York City. The black and white film (my Netflix sleeve tells me this was Allen’s first black and white film) makes the city’s grit almost tender as Allen’s character narrates a tale of adoration and disenchantment to scenes of people passing by.

There’s a sense of romance deep in the city's DNA, and in the story. The doomed relationships, the self-destruction, the convertible rides on the West Side Highway. It’s all loudly neurotic. But many of the best scenes take place in silence, barely visible: a moment of breathless anticipation set against moonscapes at the Hayden Planetarium, silent fidgeting as the star-crossed lovers - all of them - sit in a row at the opera. Even the lone physical gag in the film, a literal muckraking of the Central Park Reservoir, is silent. It’s not a movie to see with a lover, perhaps, but it sure makes having one seem nice.

Reeves Wiedeman