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Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli, Lionel Stander, Barry Primus, Mary Kay Place, Georgie Auld, George Memmoli, Dick Miller, Murray Moston
Writing Credits:
Earl Mac Rauch (story), Earl Mac Rauch, Mardik Martin

The war was over and the world was falling in love again.

Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese teams with Academy Award® winners Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro in this splashy, flashy musical spectacle celebrating the glorious days of the Big Band Era in the Big Apple! Jimmy is a joint-jumpin' saxophonist on his way to stardom. Francine is a wannabe starlet who dreams of singing in the spotlight. When they meet, sparks fly - and when he plays and she sings, they set New York on fire! It's the beginning of a stormy relationship, as the two struggle to balance their passions for music and each other under the pressures of big-time show biz.

Box Office:
$14 million.
Domestic Gross
$13.800 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 163 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 2/8/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Film Critic Carrie Rickey
• Introduction By Martin Scorsese
• Alternate Takes
• Deleted Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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New York, New York: Special Edition (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2005)

If you look at Martin Scorsese’s output from 1973 to 1980, almost every flick stands out in some way. I think 1973’s Mean Streets is flawed, but it acted as a strong statement of the filmmaker Scorsese would become. 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore demonstrated that he could create a commercial success under the studio system.

Both 1976’s Taxi Driver and 1980’s Raging Bull earned critical plaudits and remain two of the best films in Scorsese’s filmography. Both also landed on the AFI 100 list of the top movies ever made. In between, Scorsese also directed the concert flick The Last Waltz, arguably the greatest concert movie of all.

And then there’s 1977’s New York, New York. Like Spielberg’s 1941, New York acts as the ugly stepsister in the midst of a stellar run of films. The movie pretty much flopped with critics and audiences and has become the odd man out when people look at Scorsese’s Seventies output.

There’s a good reason for this: the movie stinks. Lots of times movie fans look back at unsuccessful flicks and find hidden gems, but that’s not the case with New York. This dud deserves to remain ignored.

New York opens in August of 1945 on “VJ Day”. We meet slick womanizer Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) as he hits on babes with the same lines. When he approaches Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) he hits a brick wall but he won’t quit. The two spar in future encounters as well, but they eventually end up forced together when a club owner (Dick Miller) will only take Jimmy as a sax player if singer Francine is part of the act.

Despite some of their earlier friction, the pair quickly become a couple, though a long distance one when Francine gets a job on the road. Jimmy soon joins her. The rest of the movie follows the continued ups and downs of both their romantic lives and their professional careers, especially as Francine becomes more successful than her mate.

Scorsese and De Niro enjoyed many terrific collaborations over the years, and the actor usually actively improved those efforts. He was the best thing about both Raging Bull and Mean Streets, and he was strong in their other movies. Except for New York, that is. For the first time, De Niro actively harmed a Scorsese flick.

De Niro is radically wrong for Jimmy. While the character requires some edge, De Niro offers nothing but edge. When he tries to play the chatty scam artist, he lacks charm and simply brings on the aggression. He’s too dark to be a good con man, as he fails to portray any suave likeability. It feels as though De Niro couldn’t turn off the intensity he brought to Taxi Driver, for he turns Jimmy into an intimidating heavy. There’s no modulation to the performance; whether happy, angry or sad, Jimmy’s always scary.

On the other hand, Minnelli doesn’t bring anything other than a vague weepiness to Francine. As an actor, she’s out of her league compared to De Niro. He may take an oddly intense tone for Jimmy, but at least it’s clear he can act. Minnelli fails to convey much real personality for Francine. She’s nothing more than a dull dishrag.

The film attempts some of the snappy interplay we expect from this sort of film, but again, it flops. Largely that’s because there’s no chemistry between De Niro and Minnelli. At no point in the film does it make sense that they become an item, and the movie gives them no scenes that convey affection or compatibility. They’re together because the film requires them to be together.

Granted, some of this stems from the nature of the production. Scorsese went for a variation on the classic musical, so the use of an unlikable lead and many artificial elements comes with the territory. That’d be great if it worked. However, the movie fares neither as spoof or reconstruction of the genre.

The virtual absence of a plot doesn’t help. The movie focuses entirely on the relationship between Jimmy and Francine, and it rarely broadens beyond that focus. Most musicals toss out complicated production numbers, but we get none of those until the Happy Endings sequence at the end. That shows the movie made by Francine, so we finally see an elaborate series of musical bits.

Otherwise, the rest of the movie’s tunes come from stage performances. Those don’t present real production numbers with dancing and whatnot. Instead, they display simple band shots and don’t become interesting. The musical pieces also slow down the film terribly. New York approaches the three-hour mark, and that’s way too long for a flick with so little story or anything else to occupy our attention.

With some nice musical numbers, perhaps I’d be able to recommend New York, New York to fans of that genre. However, it lacks entertaining production sequences and also fails as a drama. It presents one-dimensional characters and little discernible plot. From start to finish, this flick’s a dull dud.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

New York, New York appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For reasons unknown, MGM refuses to embrace anamorphic transfers for 1.66:1 flicks. That became the major problem with this otherwise frequently positive image.

The lack of anamorphic enhancement meant that the movie often looked softer than I’d expect. Definition never became poor, and the picture usually came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. Unfortunately, the movie lacked good detail in the smaller elements and tended toward slight fuzziness.

Despite the lack of 16X9 encoding, jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns. However, moderate edge enhancement cropped up throughout the movie. Source flaws remained minor for a movie from 1978. The film looked grainier than I expected, but otherwise only a smattering of specks and small marks cropped up in this very clean transfer.

Colors varied from bright and vivid to runny and messy. Actually, the latter concerns were infrequent intrusions, as only a few shots demonstrated some murky hues; those mostly appeared during scenes with red lighting. Usually the movie presented fairly vivid and rich tones. Blacks were deep and tight, but shadows were less consistent. Some low-light shots seemed clear and well-defined but others were denser and less smooth. Overall, a lot of the movie looked good, but the frequent problems with sharpness and other issues knocked down my grade to a “C+”.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of New York, New York never dazzled, it was more than adequate for a movie of this one’s age and scope. Audio remained heavily oriented toward the front. Frankly, if any surround usage occurred, I never detected it. The front speakers offered fairly good stereo imaging, and some light ambience also spread across that area. The soundfield didn’t go for much ambition, but it seemed satisfying.

Audio quality was consistently good. Speech sounded warm and natural, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music didn’t demonstrate immense dimensionality, but the songs were reasonably bright and vivid. Although effects played a minor role, they were always tight and accurate. I found the mix to complement the material and work just fine.

A mix of extras accompany this DVD release of New York, New York. We can watch the film with an introduction from director Martin Scorsese. In this five-minute and 35-second clip, Scorsese reflects on the artifice of “old Hollywood” and his use of those styles in the flick as well as a few other appropriate topics. The director discusses his goals and helps set us up to view the movie.

The disc’s major attraction comes from an audio commentary with Scorsese and film critic Carrie Rickey. Both sit separately for this edited track. The piece starts like a house of fire, but unfortunately, it quickly stagnates.

Rickey pops up infrequently, as she mainly discusses themes and interpretation of events. Scorsese starts out with a great look at his Influences and his prior films, his desire to rework the musical, stylistic elements and what he wanted to do with the flick. Toward the end, he chats about the movie’s reception and issues connected to the Happy Endings sequence.

All of those bits are good to great. Unfortunately, the commentary comes with dead air. Lots of dead air, as a matter of fact - acres upon acres of nothing. The track suffers from so many gaps or segments with very little content that I almost bailed on it. When I review commentaries, I don’t “sample” them like some others; I sit through them in their entirety.

However, I was damned tempted to give up on this one; all that emptiness became too much to take. The track has some good moments; it starts very well and tosses out nice material toward the end. It’s all the silence in the middle that makes this a very disappointing commentary.

After this we get a collection of 15 alternate takes/deleted scenes. All together, these fill 19 minutes and 11 seconds. Don’t expect lots of true deleted scenes, as this area mostly presents unused takes. For the new sequences, we mainly see more of what a cad Jimmy is. The different takes and the cut scenes are moderately interesting, but none of them seem any better than that.

In the Photo Gallery, we get six subsections. These present “Filmmakers, Cast and Crew” (15 shots), “On Set” (5), “French Lobby Cards” (24), “Research Photos” (10), “Original Posters” (6), and “Storyboards” (30). Drawn by Scorsese, the boards are the most interesting part, though I also like the poster created by Al Hirschfeld. Otherwise the various shots seem unexceptional.

As for ads, we get both theatrical and teaser trailers for New York. Other Great MGM Releases includes a general promo called “MGM Means Great Movies”.

Is New York, New York an homage, a parody, or a reconstruction of classic movie musicals? That’s a good question, and not one that the flick adequately answers. It includes all of those elements but mushes them together into a plodding piece with little substance or entertainment value.

The DVD offers erratic but decent picture quality along with pretty solid audio. The extras add little to the package, mainly because the audio commentary is maddeningly slow-paced much of the time. Leave this clunker to completists who feel a need to see all of Scorsese’s movies.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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