Precious few filmmakers are revered in the manner Woody Allen is. A true giant and icon of the art form, Allen's work has stood apart for decades, with film as a medium indebted to the work he's done across an incredibly decorated career. This year, almost forty years on from its original release, Manhattan (1979) has been re-released and remastered in 4K, bringing fresh life and new audiences to what is widely acknowledged as a true classic.
One of Allen's crowing jewels, he takes the starring turn on top of writing and directing, as was his wont at the time. Boasting the likes of Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in central roles, as well as Michael Murphy and Ariel Hemmingway, the picture follows the life of a divorced television writer (Allen) dating a teenage girl (Hemmingway), who's love life becomes further complicated when he becomes involved with his best friend's (Murphy) mistress (Keaton).
Showing in West Yorkshire over the next week, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds will screen the film on Sunday 11th June at 3pm, as well as the Showcase in Birstall, which is due to show the film from the 13th to the 18th of June, with a guest speaker Dr Martin Hall - a senior lecturer in media and film at York St John university - introducing the film on Tuesday the 13th, to provide additional colour and context.
Speaking to Nick Varley of Park Circus, the distributors of Manhattan and the company behind the remastering, it's clear that the re-release is fulled by a desire to honour the work and intention of both the film and director, as well as preserving the film and ensuring it not only survives, but thrives, in the modern day film industry.
"We worked very closely with Woody on the restoration, as well as his editor" Nick says. "Of course, when they released the film originally, way back in 1979, the film was developed and processed in a specific way to get a certain look within the black and white that we had to replicate digitally. It was difficult, though, because we're dealing with a near forty-year-old film, so it was lucky the negatives were in such good condition.
"Woody Allen films are extremely popular, so as a company we're privileged to represent most of his work worldwide for theatrical distribution. Woody is very particular, he wants his film shown in the manner that they were intended to be seen, for the imagine on screen to replicate the way he imagined audiences would see it, so the only way to do that in a manner that he'd want us to was to restore the film in 4K.
"It's really pleasing to get to the end of that process, because we've got something now that Woody's really happy with, we're certainly happy with and hopefully that will help keep this film in theatres, which had been a struggle previously."
Explaining why they decided to conduct and release the restoration work now, Nick explained how advancement in technology is quickly leaving old films behind, meaning companies are having to play catch up with how art is now being consumed.
"There are two real elements" Nick says. "The first is preservation, because film is delicate, and in order to keep it alive, you have to maintain it, it's much like a house in that way. If you don't spend any money and you don't look after it then eventually it all falls down, and it's the same with film. The second is now being able to make it available in new formats. These days they shoot most films digitally, but with older films that are shot on actual film, you have to remaster it so people can stream it, watch it on telly or have it on blu-ray."
So, why Leeds and why The Showcase to house this talk and screening? "The event in Leeds is entirely organic" Nick explains. "One of our local ambassadors came to us and told us he wanted to introduce it because he knew the background and history, so could give an audience some context and add value to the evening, such was his passion. Hopefully that'll help give people an insight and experience that otherwise they wouldn't have had.
"We've been working Showcase for a while now on their classic film programme, not just in Leeds but across the country, and Manhattan in 4K is just one in a series of films they've been screening. There's also the likes of Casablanca, Taxi Driver, It's A Wonderful Life, Singing In The Rain - so none of the classics!"
Manhattan is Woody Allen at his finest, according to Nick, and is well worth a watch for both new and return viewers.
"This is the high watermark. This is Woody Allen at his absolute best. It encapsulates everything you think about Woody Allen; New York, great script, great comedic timing, beautifully shot in black and white, in cinemascope which has to be seen on the big screen and a wonderful score by George and Ira Gershwin, so if you love music, the entire score is paradise. It's the quintessential Woody Allen film, so if you're only ever going to see one, then this is the film to see."