Monday, June 15, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) - Constructed for Maximum Emotion

[Quick Summary: A NYC couple are convinced their neighbor has killed his wife.]

What makes a Woody Allen film so special?

Most people, including me, would say, "It's the dialogue."

I still think that's true, but the springboard is that his scripts are first constructed for maximum emotion.

ex. In this story, Carol and Larry meet their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. House.

Soon, Mrs. House disappears.

Carol thinks Mr. House killed Mrs. House, but Larry doesn't believe her.
 
However, an attractive single friend, Ted, does, and she gravitates toward him.

Larry is unsure how to deal, so he connects with Marcia at work. She becomes interested in the mystery as well.

In the first half of the script, Larry is jealous of Carol and Ted

--> Larry resists helping Carol (& thus getting her to her goal).
---> This pushes Carol closer to Ted.
---> This is uncomfortable for Larry.

In the second half, Carol is jealous of Marcia's positive effect on Larry and Ted.

---> Larry and Marcia become more involved in the mystery
---> Larry solves things, Marcia looks smart.
---> This is bittersweet for Carol.

Once this framework is in place, it's no wonder the dialogue really sparkles:

CAROL: I told Ted.
LARRY: You told Ted before you told me?
CAROL: Yeah. He's more open-minded about these things.
LARRY: Yes, I know. I'm-I'm-I'm a bore. I'm-Because I-Because I-Because I don't break the law, you know?
CAROL: Yeah.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Do the heavy lifting first. Dialogue later.

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
by Woody Allen

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