Guest Post written by Sam Moore
New York City, with its sprawling streets, yellow cabs and glorious Broadway theatres means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, New York is Broadway and Manhattan, all of the touristy stuff, as I’m not a native myself. But one of the other key things New York is to me; is a prime landscape for some fantastic movies. So, in honour of one of my favourite cities, here are five films set in the Big Apple, each showing a slightly different side to it.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) dir. Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski’s classic horror about a woman who becomes paranoid about her unborn child, captures a bleak side to the city. Polanski inhabits it with certain New York staples (Rosemary’s husband Guy is an actor), but also various unsavoury characters in the form of Rosemary’s neighbours. A great deal of it takes place in apartment buildings, and keeps the city itself at arm’s length. Polanski alienates both his characters and his audience, creating a masterpiece of horror.
Shame (2011) dir. Steve McQueen
McQueen’s edgy drama about a sex addict uses the city of New York as a weapon against the films central character, Brandon. The architecture and towering buildings dwarf him, making him feel insignificant, as if he has no place. The city traps him, leaving him alone to face his addiction in a city that doesn’t seem to allow Brandon to escape.
Taxi Driver (1976) dir. Martin Scorsese
Like McQueen does in Shame, Scorsese uses New York as a weapon in his classic movie about a sociopathic taxi driver. He uses it to isolate Travis, and fills the city’s late night streets with unsavoury characters like pimps and prostitutes. The city itself is one of the reasons Travis’ grip begins to slip away from him.
American Psycho (2000), dir. Mary Harron
Mary Harron’s stylish and sinister comedy, based on Bret Easton Ellis’ excellent 1991 novel of the same name shows New York as a roaring city, following around wealthy and excessive businessmen, who include in their number, Christian Bale’s psychotic killer, Patrick Bateman. The city shown in this movie is the same as its characters, excessive and incredibly striking on the face, but the city also lacks a human element, as these men go through the motions in expensive restaurants and fashionable clubs, while Bateman begins to slip further and further into his murderous rampages.
Manhattan (1979), Woody Allen
“He adored New York City. He idolised it all out of proportion”. These opening lines to Woody Allen’s classic perfectly sum up the writer/director’s view on New York. Shot in black and white, the film captures the city in a truly beautiful way, filling it with shots like the classic image on the film’s poster. If ever a man could do justice to all the sides of New York City, then it is Woody Allen. After all, “New York was his town, and it always would be.”
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