This was a real change of pace for director Martin Scorsese--he decided to do a drama/love story with music set in the 1940s. But he wanted a DOWNBEAT film. It was released in 1977 (after about 20 minutes were cut out by the studio) and was torn apart by the critics. It was reissued in 1981 with all the cut footage restored (it now runs 165 minutes) and the critics raved about it! Go figure. After that, however, it seemed to disappear. Too bad--it's actually good. It's about clarinet player Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) falling in love with Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli). She's a singer and they preform together in the same band. But Jimmy has serious temper problems and when Francine gets pregnant things go out of control. The film is certainly stunning to look at--the sets and cinematography are just great. Some of the sets are (quite obviously) fake but it actually works in this movie. It seems to be a homage to the big, splashy Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s--but has its characters act like real people and deal with adult situations. The direction by Scorsese is (of course) wonderful. What's especially surprising is his directing of the big "Happy Endings" musical number (which was originally completely cut)--who knew Scorsese could direct a musical? The acting is good--almost too good. Minnelli is very good as Francine--she's just magical when she sings and there's a powerful sequence when she just explodes in the back of a car. De Niro plays Doyle as an insensitive jerk--and that's the main problem with this film. His character is loud, immature, obnoxious and always pushing Minnelli around. More than once I wanted her to turn around and punch him out. His character is so unlikable it's hard to really give a damn about him. But Minnelli is beautiful and likable and the sets are unbelievable. The music is great and when Minnelli sings "New York New York" you can't take your eyes from the screen. Also old time stage actor Larry Kert (who sadly died on AIDS in 1991) pops up at the "Happy Endings" sequence--what a voice! A lot of people find this film sick and too dark--it is, but it IS a Martin Scorsese film. It should be reissued again and find a new audience. It's been over 20 years. Well worth seeing.
New York, New York
New York, New York
An egotistical saxophonist and a young singer meet on V-J Day and embark upon a strained and rocky romance, even as their careers begin a long, up-hill climb.
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April 5, 2019