Wednesday, March 26, 2014

[Mini Review] New York, New York (1977)

DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese
WRITTEN BY: Earl Mac Rauch, Mardik Martin
STARRING: Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli
RATING: 2.5/5

On V-J Day in New York City an egotistical and selfish saxophone player meets a young USO singer. They embark on romance as their careers slowly take off which leads to their relationship becoming strained and very rocky.

This was Scorsese's first film after Taxi Drive which of course was hugely successful. He wanted to do something different, departing from the usual gritty and realistic tone of much of his previous work. He wanted to be experimental film-making wise with 'New York, New York' which he intended to be a homage to the classic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s. However a very close and dear friend of mine who admires Scorsese immensely pointed out that he wasn't in the best place personally at the time which did contribute to the film ultimately being a failure both financially and critically. Which as a result sent him further into depression and drug addiction.

I don't think 'New York, New York' is a bad film overall but there are definitely issues with it. I think it's far too long; it could have easily been two hours instead of two hours and forty minutes. Many of the scenes were far longer than they needed to be; the opening scene in particular where we have Robert De Niro trying to win the affections of Liza Minnelli at this big celebration event in the heart of the city. Pretty simple set up but it just goes on and on and that's what the film is like for the most part. I zoned out about half way through because there was literally nothing happening. The second big issue and the one most people criticise the film for is the improvised dialogue, which I personally don't mind. But in the case of this film there's no control over it or restraint. It’s as if there was no script. I found it irritating as there were times where the characters were just talking nonsense, it was a mess.

The acting isn't bad, Liza Minnelli really shines. However De Niro was less than impressive which is a shame because he's usually such and engaging actor but I think it was more to do with his character in this case.

The final act of the film I really enjoyed which was the big tribute to the classic musicals. But really is was a showcase of Liza Minnelli's tremendous talent as a singer and performer. It was very much her big moment and it was pretty spectacular.

I admire Scorsese for wanting to try something different and I think visually the film is quite impressive with the obvious fake set pieces and the use of lighting but clearly the desired effect didn't please everyone. On the DVD I own there's a five minute intro by Scorsese which did provide some insight into what he was intending the film to be which I appreciated. I do recommend seeing ‘New York, New York’ as it is a very different from the legendary director's usual work. 

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