When Manhattan begins, Woody Allen's Isaac starts to dictate a book. As gorgeous, black and white shots of New York swim across the screen, he says:
At its most basic level, this intro is quintessential Allen -- a package of wildly varying and sometimes astute thoughts that are sucked into a vortex of manic, second-guessing self-involvement. Isaac cannot even make it through the first few sentences of his book without re-thinking and re-framing the start over and over again. This is the Allen we're all familiar with, a character needing little explanation because we already know it so well.Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion... Er, no, make that: He... He romanticized it all out of proportion... Yes. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.
But there's also the level of sentimentality and cinematic forgiveness revealed in this statement. Manhattan is a love story about the Big Apple, where -- at times -- characters are secondary to their environment, but it's also a prime metaphor for how we see the romance between Isaac and young Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). These are subjects and scenarios wiped clean of their reality, whose presentation makes the dangerous or questionable something gorgeous or charming.