New York, New York
Directed by: Martin Scorsese Cast: Liza Minnelli, Robert De Niro Running Time: 2 hrs 43 mins Rating: PG Due Out: June 7, 2011
PLOT: After meeting at the end of World War II, a cocky saxophonist (De Niro) begins a tumultuous relationship with a rising singer (Minnelli).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Martin Scorsese's more aspiring projects. More for the Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore crowd than it is for those who associate Scorsese immediately with violent gangster movies like Goodfellas.
Clocking in at two hours and forty minutes, New York, New York is an incredibly ambitious film from maestro director Martin Scorsese who tries to express his love for two big elements of his life in one big project: the power of music, and the allure of New York, New York itself.
Packed with music, the film features many performances of its wide-ranging soundtrack, with all of the songs played out in full. With an exception of Liza Minnelli’s “Broadway Melody”-like third act-stealing moment of “Happy Endings,” New York, New York isn’t so much a musical as it is a drama that speaks with music. Even solos from Robert De Niro (who expertly mimics playing saxaphone) turn into monologues, with the alphabet of notes speaking in more than just melodic phrases.
Yet with such enthusiasm packed into its ambition, Scorsese’s film can tend to be a bit arduous. The same love that is expressed by the filmmaker in many extensive, wide-shot scenes is not felt in the tense relationship between Minnelli and De Niro’s characters. While their acting can support the weight of the movie’s attention, it’s a simple problem with the characters – they aren’t as enjoyable to be stuck with for almost three hours, especially when things become more atonal for their heart harmonies. Scorsese’s view into relationships is admittedly honest in some parts, yet in other ways it can be fairly emotionally violent. Watching De Niro’s hothead Jimmy Doyle cause a ruckus by himself is partially enjoyable in this intense character, but having to sit through a lot of bickering between the center stage couple can be relatively exhausting. The running time starts to wear on the viewer, and the direction of the film can seem a bit lost.
The fast-talking, film-generating Scorsese can be considered a fairly intense filmmaker. For one, he's a machine that churns out films almost every year, ranging from documentaries to psychological thrillers (Shutter Island) to a 3D children's book adaptation (this fall's Hugo Cabret). Within his films, which are meticulous aesthetically and are crafted by a walking film encyclopedia, Scorsese can pack a punch with any story, without having to get grotesque (though this is the case, certainly, with his mob movies). New York, New York seems to make more sense in this light, however flawed it may be. Its desire to replicate a period of history and a movement in film (the MGM musicals) is dedicated, and its admiration for the material is intense. It's just a case of tough love that can be troublesome to embrace.
MOVIE SCORE: 5/10
Audio Commentary by Director Martin Scorsese and Film Critic Carrie Rickey Introduction by Martin Scorsese Alternate Takes/Deleted Scenes The New York, New York Stories: Part One The New York, New York Stories: Part Two Liza on New York, New York Commentary on Selected Scenes by Laszlo Kovacs, ASC