50DMC #8: Favorite Opening Sequence

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What is your favorite opening sequence?

A great opening sequence can either set the stage for a great movie or set an impossibly high bar that the rest of the movie can’t hope to live up to. I have many favorite opening sequences of both types; even those of the second type kind of gather a life on their own as that great opening sequence of a forgettable film. But at this moment, I will choose the opening of Manhattan as my favorite, and it happens to also be the beginning of a great film.

The opening sequence of Manhattan blends three fabulous things into a whole that perfectly defines the film to come. Beautiful black and white photography of New York City with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” underneath, and Allen’s Isaac speaks over image and music talking about New York. But after a phrase, it turns out Isaac actually writing, trying to find the perfect opening for his novel about a New Yorker – as he goes through various options, shifting things to change the tone or the style of the piece (which, as he knows, will determine the tone of the whole novel), we not only understand more about New York City and about Isaac and about his relationship with New York, but about the kind of film we’re going to see, and the kind of people, always concerned about how they fit into their intellectual and cultural milieu, that will inhabit it. And then Isaac decides on his opening and lets Gershwin and New York reach their simultaneous climax.

  • Good one! For me, it’s a tie between Grave of the Fireflies and Carlito’s Way

    • I’ve never seen Carlito’s Way. Love Grave of the Fireflies, but I’m not sure I remember the opening. I’ll have to look it up.

  • A Touch of Evil is my favorite and is the first movie I think of when someone mentions opening sequences.

    • Touch of Evil is definitely up there for me. Also Once Upon a Time in the West. But I felt a particular affinity for Manhattan when I considered the question this time. :)

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