I claimed a bit of owed time back and left work slightly early to catch a classic screening of one of my favourite movies at the Filmhouse on the way home from work, Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan. I have it on DVD at home in my (probably way too large) film collection, but it’s a different experience watching a movie in the cinema than it is at home. Not just the obvious screen size difference – you concentrate more on the film in the cinema, you’re there in the dark, with an audience all reacting to the scenes alongside you, not at home, pausing the DVD to go and put the kettle on or check your Twitter feed.

And it was still wonderful after all these years – I think Manhattan has one of the greatest openings in cinema, Woody’s dialogue, his writer trying out lines “he adored New York, he idolised it…” over a montage of all sorts of views of the city, from the expensive fashion stores to the family neighbourhood, that iconic skyline and then, as the Gershwin soundtrack soars that skyline erupts with fireworks, all of this in glowing black and white cinematography. New York has rarely looked more beautiful on film, it’s a magical movie moment (what I call a Triple-M, just perfect scenes in a film that live in your mind’s eye ever after and always raise that reaction no matter how often you see it). And then there’s that perfectly composed scene of Woody with Diane Keaton, sitting by a bench by the river next to the Queensboro Bridge, as dawn starts to break. Sublime.

I had a little time before the early evening showing, so I parked myself in the Filmhouse cafe-bar for some food and drink before the screening. The Filmhouse is one of my “happy places”, it’s been a second home for me since I moved to Edinburgh as a student a long time ago, and being there for a movie, the film fest or even just in the cafe-bar makes me content. As I was having my drink I was, of course, reading (always a book in my bag), in this case Simon Garfield’s On the Map, a history of cartography which I picked up in a charity store recently. And right before it was time to close the book and head up to the auditorium what do I read but a paragraph on the first appearances of America on world maps, and the first mention, in the mid 1600s, of Manhattan on a map, here referred to as “Manhattes”, just as I was about to go in to see the film Manhattan. I love little meaningless coincidences like that…

The Manhattan Project

Cameron Michael lugged 130 pounds of camera gear around Manhattan to record these scenes for a wonderful time-lapse of this intensely vibrant urban cityscape through day and night. The high definition imagery is beautifully clear for both day and nocturnal scenes, while the the speeded-up nature of the time-lapse film creates an almost animation-like feeling in places. I love time-lapse work, it’s one of those fascinating faculties we are denied in the real world – we can’t pause time, slow it, loop it, repeat it or speed it up in the waking world, but in the lucid dreamscape of our various media (film and comics being perhaps the best for it) we can make time dance to our desires to open new windows into ways of seeing that so-called real world in a different way. I must also confess to a real weakness for urban cityscapes, especially night scenes – probably why I love Michael Mann films so much and why I take so many photos and night shots myself, there’s just something intoxicating about the mix of photographing the real but it looking slightly imaginary in the image, the Looking Glass effect of the camera…

The Manhattan Project HD1080P from Cameron Michael on Vimeo.