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Two Men In Manhattan

Release Year:         1959
Studio:         Cohen Film Collection
Format:         Blu-Ray Edition; b&w
Rated:         Not Rated
Running Time:         85 minutes
DVD Release Date:         September 17, 2013
Screenwriter:         Jean-Pierre Melville
Director:         Jean-Pierre Melville
Actors:         Jean-Pierre Melville, Pierre Grasset, Michele Bailly
DVD Features:         In French with English subtitles; a conversation between critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky; new essay by Melville scholar Ginette Vincendeau
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

Cohen Film Collection Write-up:    
A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Morerau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard-drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women. Set against a smoky jazz score and featuring stunning  black and white cinematography that beautifully captures the gritty streets at night, this is director Melville’s love letter to New York City and homage to American Film Noir.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
Jean-Pierre Melville loved American Film Noir. His attraction to this distinct genre is the impetus behind TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN, now gloriously restored and presented by the Cohen Film Collection.

Melville is so devoted to his vision that he even plays one of the principal roles, a weary-looking newspaper reporter who—because of his heavy-lidded eyes—bears a certain resemblance to Robert Mitchum. Melville is no Mitchum when it comes to acting, though, and his performance is only partly successful.

Pierre Grasset as near-alcoholic photographer Delmas is the more interesting of the two main characters. It is his dilemma at the end of the film that strongly suggests that he is the true protagonist and his “what the heck” laugh in the film’s final seconds will stay with you once the film is over.

As an homage to Film Noir, there is bound to be a lot of familiarity in the plot and style of the film. While perhaps inescapably spilling into cliché at times, the film is still mesmerizing to watch, in large part because of Its on location footage of New York City. Cliché is often the result of meeting audience expectation, which one is obliged to do in any film defined by its genre, so one can be forgiving if certain stretches seem awfully familiar (the chanteuse girlfriend, the visit to the strip club—with nudity, not common for 1959, the year the film was made).

While the film hasn’t aged as well as Melville might have hoped, there is still much to applaud. One need look no further than the excellent and enlightening conversation between critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ignatiy Vishsnevetsky for genuine insight into the film.

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