All this week, Woody Allen’s Manhattan is screening at New York’s Film Forum. I’ve seen it 11 or 12 times straight through — it’s usually playing on September 11 somewhere in the city, and it’s a generally good movie to watch if you’re into Valentine’s Day — but that probably won’t stop me from going to see it again. On the all-time Woody list, I’d put it slightly ahead of Annie Hall but just behind Allen’s greatest movie, Hannah and Her Sisters; the three put together comprise the holiest of all New York Trilogies.
If you’ve seen Manhattan, you’ve fallen under the spell of its astonishing black-and-white cinematography, which is, of course, the work of Gordon Willis. He has built a rep as arguably the most famous American DP of all time, mostly thanks just to the unbeatable work he did throughout the 1970s. (In addition to Manhattan, Willis shot the Godfather movies, All the President’s Men, The Parallax View, Klute, and a few other Woody movies, including Annie Hall.) Willis is reclusive, and we haven’t heard much from him lately — his last IMDB credit is for 1997’s The Devil’s Own — which is why I thought I’d pass along this likable e-mail communique from him, courtesy of The Reeler, which got him talking in unaffected stream-of-consciousness style about Manhattan. Consider it worth a click if you love Willis, Manhattan, or that classic poster shot of Woody and Diane Keaton on a bench staring out at the 59th Street Bridge at dawn. It’s amusing to hear Willis ID one of the most iconic shots in movie history as just “a button that ends the sequence.” Yet another reason to love the guy.