It is rare that a fan-film makes its way to population through legitimate channels. Its channel is usually YouTube and its love and knowledge of its subject is often profoundly nerdy. If not pornographic, it will ascribe itself to the comic genre, and jokes with which other fans can relate and interact, will have it shared, talked about, viral. Sophie Lellouche’s Paris Manhattan must be commended for its sheer existence because it’s an impossible film.
Anna Taglioni is Alice, a pharmacist working in her father’s business who prescribes Woody Allen films to depressed women, and armed robbers, instead of medicine. She’s a knockout blonde who plods around like a wooden puppet, and can’t find a husband because she’s too tied up in her misuse of her favourite director’s body of work. Since adolescence, Alice has spoken to an Allen poster that looms large from a wall in her bedroom. The poster speaks back with smatterings of Woody’s own dialogue which would work if the film was a parody like Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.
When Alice meets security system designer, Victor (Patrick Bruel), who has never seen a Woody Allen film, a friendship is formed and built on some strange investigations into Alice’s family life. His work and Alice’s, which occupy much screen-time do not carry any symbolic significance and are mere echoes of boutique queerness in the modern French post-Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain purview.
Lellouche’s Allen-sphere is incoherent and idiotic. When asked why she likes his films, Alice’s answers are flimsy, or she dismisses the question altogether. Manhattan shares the film’s title with Paris, but Manhattan and Manhattan are so remote to Alice that it completely alienates her from viewers; rather than charmingly unconventional, she is pathologically trite.
The film is a collage of misappropriated Allen ideations. His vanity, self-obsession, death anxiety and neuroticism, the precarious nuggets of Woody lovers, are not attended – which would be refreshing, of course, if only Lellouche had succeeded them with anything insightful or interesting. Rhythmically anarchic, Paris Manhattan is a bizarre narrative compression, centred on a character whose existential puzzle revolves around her prioritising her career over marriage – another system of gender confinement disguised as radical thinking – something that Allen, inclusive of all his prostitute and actress characters, never stoops to. Any woman claiming to adore Woody Allen – and it is him that she appears to favour over his film legacy – must do so with reservations. This strange pandering to the director’s ego, which is the most documented ego in cinema, delivers some disheartening/disappointing twists.