Near the end of Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall, Diane Keaton's role as Annie says to Allen's character Alvy Singer, "You're just like New York City. You're an island!" However, the link between Alvy Singer and New York City is not simply a fictional creation. Nor is the connection between Allen's character Isaac Davis and New York in his 1979 film Manhattan fictional adoration. Woody Allen loves New York. It is through the various characters he portrays and through a camera lens that he shows New York in the most majestic and beautiful way that he can. However, both films do so in very different ways. In Woody Allen's Annie Hall and Manhattan, Allen uses the camera lens to convey how big and majestic the city can be. This is done in Annie Hall through various long-shots of the main characters or the exclusion of the main characters from the screen. Both films also use shots of New York and the lives within it to convey how the city never sleeps, and how it is always working similar to Allen's ideals of always busying himself. However, Annie Hall characterizes New York as an entity similar to Alvy Singer through a comparison between the setting, weather, and people of New York and Los Angeles. Manhattan also uses weather as a method of portraying the mood of the city and of Isaac Davis, but instead reflects more on powerful still-shots of New York's inner workings and skyline and dialogue through the voice of Isaac Davis off-screen.
One of the most fluent uses of New York's setting is introduced early in Annie Hall. One of the first scenes has Woody Allen's character, Alvy Singer, and Tony Roberts' character, Rob, walking up from a long-distance shot to a half-shot on a New York City sidewalk. This specific camera shot shows the endless sidewalk, and doesn't actually give the audience a clear picture of the main characters until around ten seconds into the scene. Instead, the audience sees a few unnamed New Yorkers walking on the sidewalk. Eventually Alvy and Rob come into clear view, but their presence is masked. The sidewalk and street corner shots are used often in Annie Hall, and it is a good method in showing the hustle and bustle of New York City's people. This shot style is used in the middle of the film in which Alvy pokes fun at the various characters in Central Park with Diane Keaton's character, Annie. The end of the film also reflects on a shot of a New York City street corner through a diner window. Both Alvy and Annie left the scene, and the camera focused on the corner as the New York traffic continued to move normally. Many other scenes outside in New York also feature many of the city's citizens walking about in their normal lives, unaltered by the bizarre and often times loud conversations that Alvy has with Annie or Rob.
It was expected that a movie with the title of Manhattan would give New York City an important role. Woody Allen doesn't disappoint, and introduced New York City not only as a cinematic setting but as a character in the opening to his 1979 film. The opening scene to Manhattan includes various shots of New York from a distance and in the city's heart. Isaac Davis, Woody Allen's character, opened the scene with lines saying that New York City was an object that he adored and idolized. Yet the entire film is shown in black and white, and New York City distinctly shares the overcast weather and gloomy feeling that was also present in Annie Hall. All of the overhead shots made the city look very gloomy. This is an interpretation that Woody has used in both of his films, in which the city tends to reflect his characters as well as his own personality. The overcast and often hazy daytime weather dictates a sense of realism and gloomy outlook. Woody Allen has said that he shares the feelings of some of his characters, including Alvy Singer from Annie Hall . The gloomy weather reflects the pessimistic outlook Woody Allen and his characters share on life and society, while New York is...
Bibliography: Björkman, Stig. Woody Allen on Woody Allen. Grove press, New York. 1993. Revised 2004.
IMDb inc. The Internet Movie Database. Website at www.imdb.com. Amazon company. 1990-2006.
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