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Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman was on in cinemas in the UK and US in November and is now on Netflix internationally. So Tripwire set its editor-in-chief Joel Meadows and senior editor Andrew Colman the mammoth task of watching and reviewing all of his films. Next up is 1977’s forgotten New York, New York, reviewed by Joel Meadows…
New York, New York
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Liza Minelli, Lionel Stander, Barry Primus, Mary Kay Place
Just one year after Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the director took a swerve in a different direction again. New York, New York is a musical drama set just after the Second World War, with De Niro as saxophonist Jimmy Doyle and Minnelli as singer Francine Evans. The pair meet at a dance in New York and they become a couple purely through De Niro chatting up random women at the dance.
So the pair team up, with Doyle initially joining someone else’s big band and Evans comes in with him as its singer. Then Doyle decides to strike out on his own and she joins him. It begins as a straight drama but soon becomes a rags to riches musical drama.
After the visceral impact of Taxi Driver, the restrained period stylings of New York, New York feel as if he has taken a step back as a director. De Niro is horribly miscast here and it feels far too much like a star vehicle for Minelli, who has little range as an actress. Also, the rest of the cast just feel like bit players and it doesn’t showcase his usually excellent eye for supporting actors who enhance the overall production.
Over Scorsese’s directorial career, his scattershot approach means that sometimes moving outside of his comfort zone works but more often than not, it falls a bit flat. However, we need to put this film into some sort of historical context in his canon of work. He openly admitted that New York, New York was designed as a counterpoint to the grim and gritty realism of Taxi Driver and was intended as a love letter to the classic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. He even designed the film’s sets and its story to feel deliberately artificial. The director was also struggling with a drug habit at the time, which didn’t help, and so the film was a flop at the box office.
Even bad Scorsese is better than many other directors’ work and New York, New York isn’t totally devoid of charm. Sometimes it works, like the final scene where Minelli belts out the title song, which was written for this film. But mostly it feels like a very conventional and well-intentioned but ultimately rather empty experience. It took three years in his career to recover from the failure of New York, New York but he came back fighting with Raging Bull. New York, New York is worth seeing once for Scorsese aficionados but it doesn’t really gel as a film.
Here’s the film’s trailer
Here’s the other Month Of Marty reviews so far as well