This film is great because it floats like a fairy tale but underneath is utterly perverse and yet so insightful it stings. The film covers relationships in the big city well enough that it makes movies like Your Friends and Neighbors and shows like Sex in the City seem irrelevant. Furthermore, Manhattan contains two of the most genuinely humorous lines in all of film. Should I tell you them? Should I? I’m going to. I have to. Here I go. They are “I can hardly keep my eye on the meter” and “I’d have said no, but you’d have felt honest.” Wow. Now that is genuine humor. Oh, you’ll see. In any case, I recommend you rent this film some evening and then for a nightcap, follow it up with the six minute Chuck Jones short “High Note” (1960, currently not in print).
For a literature or film class:
- Discuss the use of melancholy and cynicism in depicting the relationships in Manhattan as compared to Carnal Knowledge starring Jack Nicholson.
- Compare the relationship between Isaac and Tracy with that of Humbert Humbert and Lolita in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita .
- Both Lolita and Manhattan often use light background scores to highlight ironically the perverse behavior of their characters. Recall the happy tune as Humbert Humbert sits in the tub bemused at the accidental death of his wife. Would you consider having intimate relations with a college professor?