My Manhattan, 2017
16mm transferred to HD Video
My Manhattan (2018) presents a shot-for-shot remake of the opening sequence of Woody Allen’s seminal film Manhattan (1979). With its black and white skyline shots, montage editing, and use of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Allen’s romantic portrayal of New York harkens back to a classic, optimistic version of the city, epitomized by the Roaring ‘20s. The reality of 1970s New York City was far from this sentimentalized portrayal: the city had undergone a serious fiscal crisis by 1975, partially as a result of the decades-long culmination of post-war white flight. Faced with the prospect of declaring bankruptcy, many landlords committed arson in the South Bronx to collect insurance payments, rather than giving in to plummeting property costs.
In 2018, four decades after Manhattan’s release, economic disparity is almost as high as it was in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1929, when The Great Gatsby defined an era that rested on the inherited fortunes of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. In formally reproducing Allen’s film in contemporary New York City, My Manhattan points to the fact that Allen’s film, much like my own version, was a highly subjective and ideologically inclined portrayal of the city.