Manhattan (US - BD RA)
Jonathan revisits another Woody Allen classic for the first time on Blu-ray..
Forty-two-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 beginnings 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. (From the Fox synopsis)
Joining Annie Hall for its Blu-ray release is another Woody Allen masterpiece: Manhattan. Following the success of Annie Hall, Woody Allen took the risk of working exclusively behind the camera for the Bergman-inspired film Interiors. Allen was particularly nervous about the critical reaction of his first serious drama, and it was met with a somewhat mixed reception. Only a year later, he made Manhattan, combining both the comic wit of Annie Hall and dramatic spirit of Interiors. It's a fully realized marriage of the filmmaking influences that spark Allen's creativity and the trademark brand of comedy he developed early in his career.
Shot in gorgeous black and white, the film is unbelievably in touch with the city that shares it's name. It's a love letter to New York City that lovingly criticizes it just as much as it revels in its beautiful nighttime scenery. Though the film is loaded with moments of comic brilliance, the humour exists within the characters. It's free of the playful exterior and cinematic gimmicks that Annie Hall, but it retains the neurotic sense of humour that worked so well there. There's also a dramatic side to the story that is quietly sad and has a bitter sting to it. There are enough wonderful little moments in Manhattan to fill ten movies, and the supporting performances are particularly memorable. Diane Keaton's Mary is nearly the opposite of the Annie Hall character, and a young Meryl Streep makes a long-lasting impression.
Manhattan is filled with gorgeous black and white photography, and it has never looked better than it does on this Blu-ray disc. The original MGM DVD was pretty good and already had some impressive black levels for a standard definition release, but the film benefits from the higher resolution. Black levels are more balanced and there's a bigger range of visible greys on the format. There are some nighttime scenes where the screen is almost entirely black, save for a few choice details that are illuminated. The transfer holds up incredibly well during these segments, with no distracting grain or digital artefacts present in the blank spaces of the picture. Grain is consistent and healthy, though there is a considerable spike in grain over the brightly lit sky when it makes an appearance. In 1080p you can make out a lot more detail, be it patterns on shirts or the leaves of a distant tree. It's not as significant of an upgrade as Annie Hall was, but Woody Allen fans with a Blu-ray player will want to consider it anyways due to the generous price.
There isn't a whole lot to say here. The monaural DTS-HD Master Audio track is exactly what you'd expect. It doesn't make use of surround sound setup, and it really doesn't need to. It's a film about dialogue and characters. In a more modern film production the soundtrack could benefit from some dynamic mixing, but I'd prefer that older movies stick their original mono tracks instead of making a bleary 5.1 remix. Dialogue levels are exactly as they should be and are perfectly clear to make out. There wasn't as big of a leap in quality from DVD to Blu-ray as I noticed with Annie Hall, but age and source considered this track does it's job without any noticeable issues.
As with Annie Hall, there is only a theatrical trailer.
Though Annie Hall is more my kind of movie, Manhattan is every bit as memorable and equally deserving of the term "masterpiece". It features Allen at a perfect junction between his artistic sensibilities and acuminous wit. Keeping in line with the Woody Allen tradition, this Blu-ray release is lacking any special features aside from a theatrical trailer, but it has an impressive video transfer and an acceptable monaural audio track.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 24th January 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English, Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish, Dolby Digital 1.0 French, Dolby Digital 1.0 German, Dolby Digital 1.0 Italian, Dolby Digital 1.0 Catalan
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Catalan, Dutch, Polish
Extras: Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemmingway, Michael Murphy, Meryl Streep
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 96 minutes
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