10.7.1992 — I saw Manhattan for the first time at the Tate Theater in Athens, and once the credits rolled, I’d determined that I’d eventually live in New York. Like your average Gen-Xer, I felt directionless but Manhattan served as a magnet drawing me into adulthood.
There was a lot of interest in the film at the time, as the Allen/Farrow scandal was in the news. However, this was coincidental rather than exploitative programming (the selections for Fall Quarter would have been made in May at the latest, a few months before the scandal broke).
I was only a few months removed from 17 when I saw the film (my friend Zach, I think, was still 17 when we went), so the idea of a 42-year-old man in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl did not disturb me as much as it does now. What 17 year old doesn’t want to be treated like an adult and discuss Mahler and Fitzgerald with thirtysomething New Yorkers? That desire, of course, is precisely what a responsible adult man should *not* take advantage of.
Allen has a habit of presenting as romantic choices the uncomplicated ingenue and the shrill, pretentious harpy. In Manhattan, the latter archetype (played by Diane Keaton) has betrayed Allen’s character, who now races to reunite with the former archetype (played by Mariel Hemingway). It’s too late, of course, and she leaves him to spend six months in Europe. He knows that she will return a different person, that she will grow up, and she was already more mature than he is.
Twenty-one years later, Soon-Yi Previn, Mia Farrow’s daughter who Allen married (yes, it’s as bad as it reads), is herself now the 42-year-old New Yorker. Time moves on.