New York, New York (1977, Directed by Martin Scorsese)
New York, New York has become one of my favorite movies. I can watch it at least once a year for its cinematic qualities, but also for the story itself. I think it is important that the film was made in the 1970s but it depicts the 1940s. The historic setting of the plot is in the 1940s, but Scorsese also refers and borrows from the 1940s Hollywood and their way of making musicals. "Artifice and truth" is what the director is trying to combine (as he says in his intro to the movie). In the film Scorsese combines the magical and unreal (present in movies from the 1940s when they were still a very new art form), with a reality in the characters and their story in a manner that became popular in the 1970s. This combination must be what makes the film so thrilling to watch still in 2010.
From my personal perspective: the exploration of a relationship between two creative people is very fascinating to me. Robert De Niro's Jimmy and Liza Minnelli's Francine fall in love and work together in a band, but for many reasons they cannot live together for very long. They fall apart and become successful on their own. I have to add that even though the director talks of this conflict as a result of their ambition and creativity, it appears from my perspective that the male character, Jimmy, is mad and unstable. He is overly possessive and competitive. His whole manner towards Francine is an attack straight from the beginning. I could claim that Scorsese is depicting a kind of masculinity in this movie that doesn't allow for women to be creative. The old-fashioned male who from the mid-20th century onwards has been struggling for air.
Or at least it seems that Francine's talent and finally amazing success makes it impossible for Jimmy to be coupled with her. The movie does not judge its characters and there is no happy or very sad ending to it, so it is almost impossible for me to decide where the line between creativity and madness is here.
Scorsese's tribute to the Hollywood musical of the 40's, New York, New
York so often dismissed, is arguably maturing to be his masterpiece.
Robert De Niro plays Jimmy Doyle, a saxophonist who falls for singer
Francine Evans played by a never better Liza Minnelli. They meet on VJ day
celebrations in New York, Doyle insistent for a date. Francine helps
Doyle with an audition at a club, they both get the gig and a musical and
romantic partnership is formed. The film follows the creative process
of the leads, who take different roads with there musical dreams
while marriage, childbearing, drugs and alcohol get thrown into the
mix. Has De Niro ever been this good? Coming across somewhere
between the cocky Johnny Boy From Mean Streets and the violent
Jake La Motta from Raging Bull he instills Doyle with a humor that
off-sets the characters self-destructive tendencies.
Scorsese rarely has a female lead in his
films (the excellent Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore being the notable
exception prior to NY, NY). Minnelli not only holds her own
against De Niro but she gives the film it's credibility, it's reference
and it's soul. Watch the long version of the film with the Happy
Endings sequence, a tribute itself to the finale of Singing In The Rain.
Minnelli belts out number after number whilst channeling the spirit
of her mother Judy Garland. Meanwhile Scorsese serves up the visuals
which re-create the atmosphere and vision of Minnelli's father Vincent.
Scorsese with New York New York not only created a film where he
showed the New Hollywood that there was something great in the
method of the old studio system, but in the final scenes he achieves a
mood and emotional truth that he has never reached since. We're
talking one of my all time favorite films here. Not only that, but this
film gives the city maybe it's most recognizable theme song. A classic.