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  New York, New York Unhappy EndingsBuy this film here.
Year: 1977
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Liza Minnelli, Robert De Niro, Lionel Stander, Barry Primus, Mary Kay Place, Georgie Auld, George Memmoli, Dick Miller, Murray Moston, Lenny Gaines, Clarence Clemmons, Kathi McGinnis, Norman Palmer, Dmitri Logothetis, Diahnne Abbott, Don Calfa
Genre: Musical, Drama, Romance
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's V-J Day in New York, and there's dancing in the streets because the Second World War is finally over. Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) throws his army uniform out of his hotel room window, puts on a Hawaiian shirt and goes downstairs to join the party and look for female company. He settles in a nightclub where the booze is flowing and the people celebrating on the dancefloor, and after asking a few women if he can get their telephone numbers, which he fails to do, he sits down at the table of a woman sitting alone and nursing a martini. She is W.A.C. Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) and like the other women, she's not interested, but you can't accuse Jimmy of not being persistent as he uses every trick in his book. Still Francine turns him down, pretty decisively, and Jimmy gives up to go over and talk to one of his friends who tells him he has met two women, a blonde and a brunette, and they both have a chance with them. However, the brunette is Francine - not the best start to their relationship.

After the success of Taxi Driver, director Martin Scorsese suffered his first big disaster with New York, New York, which was lambasted by the critics and largely rejected by the public. A tribute to the lavish musicals of his youth, it was ostensibly scripted by Earl Mac Rauch and Mardik Martin but was actually full of improvised dialogue, and it sounds it, with long, rambling conversations and more wearyingly, arguments heavily featured. But with this injection of realism to a genre that abided by strict rules, the end result was a curious marriage of nineteen-seventies techniques to nineteen-forties storyline and design. The central couple do not get off on the right foot, and throughout the over two and a half hours of storyline they continue to butt heads, only it's Jimmy doing most of the antagonising.

De Niro is not an actor who has been afraid to play unsympathetic and risk losing the affection of the audience, indeed it's one of his strengths and marked him out as a talent to watch during this decade, yet here he really goes out of his way to try the patience. You can barely believe that Francine would go anywhere near him after their initial meeting, so it's coincidence that brings them together as they end up at the same hotel where Jimmy runs out without paying his bill, which mildly amuses Francine, although she's still some way from being charmed. Jimmy commandeers her taxi and takes her to his latest audition, this is a musical after all and he plays the saxophone. Once they get there, Jimmy's over the top, jazzy performing turns the prospective employer off until singer Francine joins in, and they're hired as a team. Thus they become a professional couple, and later a romantic one.

Scorsese uses conventions of forties musicals, such as obvious sets and "cute" scenes such as the one where Jimmy and Francine, out on the road with a band, get hitched when he drags her to the local justice of the peace in the middle of the night. But De Niro's aggressive ways dominate, creating something even less real than the predecessors; it may be a traditional tale of his career dwinding while hers blossoms, but it never settles comfortably into that mould. For that reason, it may set you on edge, as everyone in the film seems to be, and I would have preferred an even more stylised approach rather than the grating fused-together method used. That said, the "Happy Endings" number, which is a faithful pastiche, falls flat (most of it was cut in the first version released), so perhaps that wouldn't have come off either. Minnelli makes the songs fly, notably the title song that has become a standard since, but there's not enough of them, and it all gets bogged down in domestic squabbling. New York, New York is an odd thing, an unfriendly musical that contains admirable elements but is determined to agitate instead of wallowing in nostalgia.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

 
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