Woody Allen has provided audiences around the world an insight to his vision and love of New York City. He has directed 22 feature films that take place in numerous parts of Manhattan, and in every film the city becomes an influential character in the story. Whether it is the Upper East side in Alice, the Broadway District in The Purple Rose of Cairo and Bullets Over Broadway, the Lower East side in Hannah and her Sisters, or Little Italy in Small Time Crooks, Allen has painted an elaborate, warm picture of New York City more then any other in film history.
This is why Allen serves as the catalyst for Made In New York: A Historical Survey of Film Locations. However, for Allen’s latest work he has not filmed in the city and recently went on record stating, “I began shooting in European cities because I can not afford to do it any more in NYC,” (Telegraph.co.uk pg 1.) This turn of events is a real travesty for the entire US film industry because even though Allen’s newer films, Midnight in Paris and Vicky Christina Barcelona, have been critical and commercial success, many critics and myself agree that these films lack the urban grit Allen is known for. The loss of New York City, one of the most influential in film, as Allen’s backdrop has changed the visual undertone of his films and the soaring production prices have led to the US market losing a world class director use of a domestic city in his popular productions.
Allen, who grew up in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, has always had a deep love for New York, especially the bustling wonder of Manhattan. “The first time I cam into Manhattan that I can recall was an astonishing experience, [even though] I lived only forty minutes away. But you know, when you’re four years old, five years old you don’t travel freely. And my father took me and we got off the train from Avenue J in Brooklyn and right in Times Square Manhattan. And when you came upstairs it was the most astonishing thing that one could ever imagine. The minute I saw that, you know, all that I ever wanted to do was live in Manhattan and work in Manhattan. I mean, I couldn’t get enough of it,”(Schickel, pg. 84).
He spent all of his childhood years through his time at City College of New York adventuring the city, seeing new faces and places, watching legendary films in the old inexpensive movie houses, and exploring the multiple diverse neighborhoods Manhattan provided. “As I spent more and more time in the city I saw what Greenwich Village was like, and I saw what Fifth Avenue was like, and the Upper East Side, and Grammercy Park….And to this day I feel the same way about it. I’ve been all over the world-I’ve been to every major city in the world- and I love some of them. I mean I really love some of them. But there’s nothing like Manhattan, just nothing like it. It remains you know, the most enchanting and spectacular city on the face of the earth,” (Schickel pg. 85).
Allen has taken these years of personal exploration and provided audiences with films that showcase the unique areas, landmarks, and venues in Manhattan. In return New Yorkers have been the dominant reason for the success of the talented writer, director and actor. “The foundation of Allen’s critical success in the United States has been an enthusiastic embrace by the largely New York-based critics of his witty dialogue, little changed whatever role he played. Outside of New York, however, the audiences considerably smaller, enjoy his ironic characterizations of Manhattan types. The anguished writer, the nervous documentary filmmaker, the failed but optimistic theatrical agent, the stand-up comic. To them he’s an exotic, attractive because of his strangeness,” (Baxter, pg. 5).
It is New York referenced concepts and characters like these that represent the reasons why Allen should keep creating films based in the city. It is the place he loves the most and contains the audiences who have helped build his career. However, because of the outrageous increase of New York based production prices, Allen and numerous other independent directors have no choice but to shoot elsewhere because of budget limitations. Now, only big budget blockbusters have the means of using Manhattan and other boroughs as a backdrop, and almost all of these films paint the city in unrealistic, fantasy like perspectives, far from the bustling and sometimes exhausting magic New York City actually emanates.
The Telegraph. “Woody Allen: Filming In New York is too Expensive!” The TelegraphFilm News. 24 Aug. 2010. Oct. 2011 Web.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/7962971/Woody-Allen-filming-in-New-York-is-too-expensive.html
Schickel, Richard. Woody Allen: A Life in Film. Ivan R. Dee Publishing. Chicago 2003.Nov. 2011. Print.
Baxter, John. Woody Allen: A Biography. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. New York.1998. Nov 2011. Print.
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