Considering the chaotic, often drug-fuelled circumstances of its production, New York, New York seems a lot more disciplined and successful than it has any right to be. While there's never once a sense or flavor of New York - this is pure Hollywood all the way - Scorsese's mixture of stylised settings and naturalistic drama goes beyond the traditional happy ending and takes what starts out a standard boy-meets-girl musical plotline into darker emotional territory. It may lose its way towards the and (partially due to the overlong Happy Endings number taking us away from the characters for too long), but it gets a lot more right than it gets wrong, and has a great use of color. It was also interesting to compare the theatrical version and director's cut included on the DVD - surely the easiest restoration ever since Scorsese literally cut two reels and left the rest of the film intact.
The extras from the original laserdisc release are present and correct on a very impressive and comprehensive two disc DVD set - audio commentary by Martin Scorsese and Carrie Rickey, alternate ending and 40-minutes of alternate takes and deleted scenes, two-part documentary The New York, New York Stories, an interview with Liza Minnelli, selected scene commentary by cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs, storyboards, stills and poster gallery, Martin Scorsese introduction, teaser trailer and full theatrical trailer and booklet. Not all have been carried over to the Blu-ray release, which only offers the 163-minute version, loses the storyboard and stills galleries, booklet and, most substantially, only has 19 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes rather than the full 40 minutes.
on 6 July 2011
Was not quite sure if this was region free or not and decided to take a gamble.....indeed, it is region free and if you can pick it up as I did for round the ten pound mark, then it's a bargain. The other reviewers have said more or less the goods and the not-so-goods of the movie I believe. Liza's vocals really are amazing though....she really was vocally at the very top here...and she looks stunning in some scenes.......DeNiro's acting is also quite something.
on 20 September 2007
This Film has long been one of my all time favourites. I was shocked and appaled to find only one [bad] review on amazon!
This is not just Martin Scorsese trying to do a 40s musical as most people seem to expect. It is a deeply disturbing film, with very complex characters. It seems at the start that Robert's harsh, almost mentally unstable, leading man seems too much for Liza's fragile leading lady but as the film goes on both characters evolve. You really do get involved with the lead roles, they're both terrifically acted.
That doesn't mean that musical sequences aren't some of the best I've seen, however. This singing (mainly done by Liza with a few guest apparences here and there) is perfect. Liza was in her prime in this film; she soars on numbers like "The World Goes Round" and "Just You, Just Me"; does a wonderful Peggy Lee impression with "There Goes The Ball Game" and proves she is just as much of a star as her mother in the breathtaking sequence "Happy Endings" (you have to watch the long version to get "Happy Endings", it was cut oringinally). The title song really is amazing and once experienced, Frank's version will never seem the same. (I'm not sure which high notes this other reviewer was criticing her on? her range is actually centered a little higher than her mothers so she seems quite at ease in this film.)
A stunning and very deep film. Greatly missunderstood but worth looking into. The sets are wonderfully exaggerated and the [mostly improvised] acting from the leads is truely brilliant.
on 11 January 2016
An old classic, As can see why it flopped first time around, as Robert De Niro is not very nice at all
But Liza Minelli, I had forgotten how very good she was. Forget De Niro, and just watch Minelli take
over this film. Happy Endings was cut from the film, but is now back in. Sorry to say its too long and
a bit of a mess, in this case I would have left it out.
Liza Minnelli is synonymous with the word ' entertainment' and she doesn't disappoint here.
Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb & ME all gave this film approximately 3 stars and I’m quite happy to go along with that! It was well worth a watch and quite entertaining. Minnelli plays her typical role, as in her Cabaret and Stepping Out. I thought she and De Nero were excellent as leads.
DeNiro did learn a bit of saxophone prior to this film but didn’t actually play on the film - it was dubbed in. He didn’t totally convince me as a musician I have to say? Minnelli only sang one song live on set; the others were recordings, though I have to say that ‘The Man I Love’ & ‘New York, New York’ were absolutely fabulous.
The film was not a great success and just about broke even. The one thing I did take away from the film was the lovely wardrobes and the jazzy venues and music. The film was nice on the eye and the music was very good. The film I watched was 2 hours 36 minutes, which did seem a little long at times but the actual film quality was very good.
on 18 May 2011
The late 70s/early 80s saw three of Hollywood's wonderkids stumble and suffer serious commercial flops: Steven Spielberg with "1941", his homage to the madcap screwball movies of the early 60s, Francis Ford Coppola with his Zeotrope studio projects such as the noir-ish "Hammett" and the Las Vegas musical "One from the Heart", and Martin Scorsese with his epic "New York New York". All these films, with their period nuances, garish colours reminiscent of 50s musicals like "An American in Paris" and an obvious fondness for the heyday of the Hollywood studio system when so much was created on a soundstage, suggest a back-burner project that the directors' fame and clout could now drive through and green-light. Of these films, Scorsese's has probably weathered best. Yes, the story is slight and cut from the well-trodden "boy-meets-girl/gotta sing, gotta dance" mould with little embellishment but, boy, it looks good. It opens on VJ night in 1945, with Robert de Niro's arrogant and recently demobbed saxophonist Jimmy Doyle trying to get off with still-in-uniform singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) at a victory party. Despite her best efforts to shake him off, Francine finds herself in the same hotel as Doyle and uncomfortably sharing a taxi with him next day as she goes for an audition, only to be hijacked away to Jimmy's own audition for a jazz band. Once there, Doyle quickly antagonizes the club owner until quick-thinking Francine starts singing, at which point the owner offers them joint work. And so a professional and personal relationship is born. Soon they find themselves sharing both the stage, her as featured singer and him as a saxophone player in a touring big band, and a bed as love blossoms, despite their rather abrasive relationship (de Niro plays Doyle basically as a regular male chauvenist pig who has to have the last word on everything). Jimmy though is distainful of the big band sound and yearns to be a radical jazz player with his own group, writing his own tunes, whereas Francine would prefer to settle down, have a family and concentrate on radio and recording work. The odds are always against this relationship ever lasting longer than five minutes.
Despite looking uncomfortably like Daisy Duck in her 40s/50s hairstyles and hats, Minnelli blasts through some great songs during the course of this film and delivers (for me) the definitive version of the title tune at the end of the movie in what looks like an homage to one of her late mother's cabaret performances. It's probably her best film this side of "Cabaret". De Niro famously learnt to play sax so that his finger movements would look authentic and briefly sings extremely badly. However, it's his performance as the unlikeable and selfish Doyle that probably has led to the film having had such a bad reception. His character basically throws a relentless and rather one-dimensional tantrum throughout the entire film - there's nothing remotely likeable about this guy at all. Even I get tired of the sight and sound of de Niro bullying and shouting at Minnelli (and others) in scene after scene. Scorsese clearly set out to recreate the opulence of the old-fashioned Hollywood musicals, most obviously with a typical show-within-a-show segment near the end, the "Happy Endings" section that was cut from the original theatrical release, but he also appears to have tried to splice in some of the gritty realism from "Mean Streets" or "Taxi Driver". And therein lies the problem; the two just don't gel. To (mis)quote the late great John Peel on the 70s penchant for progressive rock bands recording with full orchestras, "it's a bit like sticking a hairbrush on the back of a rat and calling it a hedgehog". You can't have a heated row one minute and then go to a full-on musical number recreated in the classical Hollwood musical style. For all it's scenic beauty, the film judders repeatedly as it swings back and forth between songs and shouty bits. There's also several attempts to introduce a bit of screwball comedy (Doyle's "wooden leg" schtick, for example, as he tries to dodge paying a hotel bill) that don't quite come off. De Niro is no Cary Grant. But despite the flaws, overall NYNY remains a glorious failure, streets ahead of our own Julian Temple's "Absolute Beginners" (another nostalgic musical project that was over-reliant on recreating everything within the confines of the studio) and possibly the last great musical of the 20th century. And Minnelli, though never everybody's cup of tea, does sing her socks off on more than one occasion (most notably as Francine is recording "The World Goes Round" and during the Happy Endings set-pieces). Great to now be able to compare both the original theatrical release and the extended version with Happy Endings re-inserted in it's proper place on this sensibly-priced DVD release.
"New York, New York" - released in 1977 - was (and remains) something of a departure for Scorsese, turning away from the gritty, violent realities of his earlier films "Mean Streets" and the just-finished "Taxi Driver" - the only break between "Taxi Driver" and "New York, New York" was to wait for Robert De Niro to finish filming on Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900". But the freedom provided by this departure, and the success of "Taxi Driver", turned out to have a negative impact on "New York, New York", as Scorsese says in the book Scorsese on Scorsese:
"After winning the Cannes Golden Palm for 'Taxi Driver', we got big heads and felt that no script was good enough. For example, we shot for weeks on the opening scene where De Niro picks up Liza Minnelli, and the original cut of this alone ran one hour...It was a experimental situation and, in retrospect, I don't think we should have been given that free a hand. It was a mess, and it's a miracle that the film makes any kind of sense."
Scorsese chose to shoot this film on set, rather than on location, partly to pay homage to the Hollywood musicals that he grew up watching (and as such, it ties into his more recent "film-history" film, 2011's "Hugo"). He wanted to capture the New York kerbs of these films that, he says in his introduction to the film, were always too high, and the disorienting sense of a film universe full of extras who are clearly dressed in far more expensive clothes than they could ever afford. But he also wanted to try imposing more realistic characterisation on this unrealistic universe, to see if and how the two could fit together.
One of his tried-and-tested techniques for presenting this atmosphere of realism is getting his characters to improvise, but he soon learned that the unfamiliar, artificial universe of sets and the familiar, authentic technique of improvisation were not made to fit together. From Scorsese on Scorsese again:
"We were trying to keep the technique of improvisation and documentary approach in the foreground, with the artifice of the fake sets in the background. But you have to build the sets in advance, which means you're not being practical, because once you start improvising in one set you soon improvise your way out of that set into another situation. In the meantime, they're building a different set because it's in the script! So you have to go back and shoot some more to get yourself back in line to use that second set - and that's one of the reasons why the scenes are so long."
The film consequently has its weaknesses, not least the overly long scene of De Niro hitting on Minnelli (about 15 minutes in the 163-minute extended version). But the whole first half of this extended version is packed full of scenes that go on too long, and that consequently lack the usual Scorsese-fired drive.
[SPOILER WARING] The film only kicks into life in the second half (about 75 minutes in), after Minnelli tells De Niro she is pregnant and the tensions between the two protagonists - the authentic emotion and characterisation that Scorsese wanted to impress upon this artificial world - come to the fore. The pregnancy sends the pair off in different directions, as Minnelli's (Francine Evans') inability to travel splits up her double act with De Niro (Jimmy Doyle), sending De Niro on the road with his new band as Minnelli stays at home. But her singing talent is quickly recognised and she is soon signed up by Decca records, propelling her into the realm of super-stardom. As De Niro's new band lacks the magic of his Minnelli double act, he soon loses his regular gigs and her success sends him spiralling off into jealousy and furious rages, one of which sends Minnelli into labour.
The pair go their separate ways, then seem set to reunite in a classic Hollywood - but utterly fake - happy ending, yet Scorsese resists the easy solution and has both characters fail to turn up at the Chinese restaurant at which they had arranged to meet - both having realised that, despite their love for one another, their ineluctable loves for music in something that is always going to drive a wedge between them and that it is therefore better for both of them if they lead separate lives.
It is a mature, realistic happy ending - the kind that Scorsese has himself after finishing the film:
"I was extremely disappointed when the movie was finished because I had had a really bad experience making it. But over the years I've been able to see that it has truth to it. I still don't really like it, yet in a way I love it."
If anyone out there is new to Scorsese, this is not the place to start exploring his films. But for long-standing fans of his work - especially his work with De Niro - this is an interesting, if not fully satisfying, watch.
on 23 July 2014
The Blu Ray "upgrade" is not much different to the DVD so why spend the difference, well the sound is better but not fantastically different either so a great shame that an excellent movie was dismissed as irrelevant for a proper treatment.
on 17 April 2014
Great idea, fantastic production but long and winding, I gave up towards the end. De-Nero's character is quite unpleasant, generally difficult to get into all of the characters in this film.
Martin Scorsese is at his best in directing raw, gritty movies of New York's underbelly, including, "Mean Streets", "Taxi Driver", and "Raging Bull". Scorsese has a partially different side, as shown in this 1977 film, "New York, New York" which stars Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli as a pair of lovers and musicians. This large-budget movie failed commercially and critically upon its initial release. The movie has hung on, based in part on Scorsese's reputation and on the performance of the stars, but still receives, and deservedly so, mixed responses.
The movie is a deliberate throw-back to the New York and Hollywood of the post- WW II 1940s. The settings of a mostly high-life ritzy New York City, its successful entertainers, clubs, posh hotels are large-scale and lavish, as are the exaggerated 1940's style clothing. The setting is a far cry from, for example, the world of "Mean Streets".
The glamorous setting becomes a backdrop for a failed romance between a bop saxophonist, Jimmy Doyle (De Niro) and a Broadway-style singer, Francine Evans (Minnelli). They meet in a crowded, expensive nightclub during the celebrations for the end of WW II. A persistently obnoxious Jimmy forces his attentions on Francine and ultimately succeeds in winning her affections and her hand. Jimmy proves to be talented on the sax but mostly dislikable as he mistreats Francine, is jealous of her success, and walks out of the marriage when she has his baby. Through all of this, Francine is forgiving and mostly passive.
The movie thus offers Scorsese characters in an upper-class setting. The film works hard to combine and to create irony and unity in the two seemingly disparate elements. Unfortunately, the film is mixed at best. Each of the two parts of the story could work separately but they don't work well together.
Minnelli offers a stunning acting and singing performance with the 1940s' song-filled score. De Niro is only slightly less effective as an actor and as a musician with his dubbed-in sax. While they are beautifully done and photographed, the musical scenes tend to be far too long and to work at cross-purposes with the story. The long movie quickly starts to drag. Some of the scenes, such as the opening encounter between Jimmy and Francine, are themselves too long and become static. The problem with the film is not with the dislikable male lead character. Rather it lies in the slow, unbalanced pacing and in the failure to integrate the story with the setting in a convincing way.
Minnelli belts out her songs with show-stopping passion, including the title song, "New York, New York", written for the film by John Kander and Frank Ebb. The song has become a classic in its own right, with performances by Minnelli and Frank Sinatra. Other songs in the film offer a commentary on the relationship between the lovers, including "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me", "Happy Endings" and "But the World goes Round". The singing and the music do not lead to an effective drama. Realizing the problems with the film, Scorsese made several revisions, cutting and then adding back some of the musical numbers, eliminating scenes, and changing the ending. The film comes to a properly hard conclusion, as opposed to Hollywood Pollyanna. But taken as a whole, the movie is full of more Hollywood fluff than of 1940's New York City and of a failed love affair and marriage.
The film is much better in parts than as a coherent, unified work. Too much of it left me restless and wanting it to move forward and to end. Unfortunately I found it a near miss and as a dramatic failure. I couldn't dismiss the film, however, with its many virtues, and thought it still deserved a good rating. The movie probably will best be remembered for its place in the overall work of Martin Scorsese.