Film Diary: Manhattan Murder Mystery (Woody Allen, 1993)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Manhattan Murder Mystery

In 1993, Woody Allen’s career was supposed to be in freefall: his old partnership with Diane Keaton that made such towering cinematic monuments as Annie Hall and Manhattan seemed a distant memory and his acrimonious breakup with Mia Farrow, with attendant scandals, hogged the headlines at the expense of his art.

I’m led to believe that Woody had Mia Farrow in mind for this project, and called on Diane Keaton as a favour when things went pear-shaped. If this is true, it’s one of the happiest accidents in cinematic history, because the pair of them sparkle together almost as they did in the old days, playing much the same characters as before. Allen is his stand-up persona as ever; a neurotic and risk averse literary editor with ditzy Keaton as his perfect foil as they embark on their own investigation of the death of their neighbour and the suspicious behaviour of the bereaved husband, in a manner reminiscent of Nick and Nora Charles.

In true Woody Allen style it’s full of references to a lost era of popular culture. In particular to film noir (with an extract from Double Indemnity on view) and especially the films fo Alfred Hitchcock. In case you are in any doubt, the bus on which Diane Keaton sees the supposedly dead neighbour has VERTIGO in big letters on the side.

I loved it. It’s not Annie Hall but that is no disgrace. I thoroughly enjoyed it and if this is Allen in decline then there’s always hope. As ever, of course, he uses music – lots of 40s jazz in this case – to terrific effect.

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