Woody Allen and George Gershwin: Manhattan

Scenes & Songs is a feature focused on the intersection of music and film, or in this case, TV. Each installment intends to examine movies and shows that involve significant musical subject content, distinct soundtracks, or maybe even just an excellent song used for a specific scene. View all

Released in 1979 Woody Allen's classic film Manhattan is about a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer who dates a 17-year-old girl before eventually falling in love with his best friend's mistress. Thank you wikipedia for the one sentence synopsis – go check out that link if you would like a deeper plot explanation. The opening scene is a collection of typical but beautiful shots of Manhattan architecture and life set against the writer's initial narrated drafts for his new novel about the city. This scene is juxtaposed by the inspired performance of the New York Philharmonic playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

What I love so much about this scene is the way that the narrator eloquently approaches the same idea from so many different angles. I always wanted to be good with words, and I envied the writing in this opening scene. Secondly, Woody Allen's use of Gershwin to capture the life essence of the city is perfect. Gershwin is a quintessential American composer whose music is without hyperbole culturally defining for Americans – especially New Yorkers. Manhattan is steeped in this music, it could not be any other way. It, like the character in the novel, has the "…coiled sexual power of a jungle cat" and only the music of George Gershwin can accurately capture this feeling. You dig?