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Venice offered Scorsese's New York New York Restored in all it's Vainglorious Vanity

Alex Deleon,


An egotistical saxophonist and a young singer meet on V-J Day and embark upon a rocky romance as their careers begin a long, hard up-hill climb.


One of the highlights of the festival week for me was the fully restored 155 minute version of Martin Scorcese's 1977 box office flop New York, New York.  Oddly enough I thought I had seen it before but realized that I hadn't as it unfolded in full vanity before my eyes at the Giardino theater on the Lido. I was confusing it with the extremely unfunny King of Comedy by the same director.   NY,NY was Scorsese's bitter sweet response to the Hollywood musical comedies of the forties and showcased a patented bravura performance by actor Robert De Niro with slicked down smartly parted hair as an extremely obnoxious jazz saxophone player who forces himself on the affections of singer Liza Minelli, gets her to marry him on an impulse, then leaves her in the lurch when she gives birth because he cannot stand to play second fiddle to a child in a family of three. Liza is in great musical form and belts out some terrific songs along the way and De Niro actually learned to play tenor sax for the part although the actual playing in the film was "dubbed" by Geogie Auld. Auld, a major swing era saxophonist plays a band leader in the film and also acted as a technical consultant for the musical sections.  The fact that the frequent sax playing is seamlessly sewn in is much to the credit of both actor and director.  However, De Niro was so effective playing a hateful SOB to Minelli's pathetically devoted girlfriend, then wife, that this may be part of the reason the movie flopped.  While beautifully filmed by Easy Rider Hungarian Revolution refugee cameraman Laszlo Kovacs it felt overly long and soon began to drag after a strong opening sequence. The picture is introduced by a beautiful New York City montage over the main title and opens on the deliriously joyful end of WWII with the defeat of Japan in the summer of 1945, "VJ Day". During this long sequence De Niro sets the tone of the film to follow with his disgustingly insistent pickup manner of Minelli dressed in a WAC uniform. He just won't take no for an answer and finally bludgeons her into accepting him.  Many terrific musical sequences serve to make the tedium in between tolerable and Minelli just becomes better and better as the film drags on.  After they mutually dump each other Minelli becomes a top Broadway Star in a painfully overlong and overdone sequence entitled "Happy Endings".  That might have been a nice little film on its own but stuffed into this already overlong story it makes the whole thing droop.

Meanwhile De Niro has become a success on his own and attends a night club performance by Minelli where he finally meets his young son now a boy of maybe seven.  This scene is pitifully weak, not pitiful as intended. At the very end DeNiro has set up a dinner date with Liza at a Chinese restaurant on a rainy night and some vague hope is held out that there will be a reconciliation but it is vain hope at best and we are spared any more painful sparring.  After the picture Producer Irwin Winkler held an impromptu master class in which he discussed the collapse of the studio system and the chaotic conditions that ensued in Hollywood in the seventies. That chaos is much in evidence in this colorfully overstuffed Scorsese De Niro collaboration which would culminate in Raging Bull, three years later.  Even though this is far from a satisfying film it is a Major landmark of this  turnaround period  of Hollywood history and on that level alone was worth the effort of sitting through.  The theme song "New York, New York"  was written especially for Liza Minelli in this picture, was a big hit for a while, and remains as one of the best-known songs about the city.


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About Mostra Internazionale d Arte Cinematografica Venice

Oldest festival in the world, MOSTRA is Non-specialised competitive event for features and shorts. Two competing sections and three Prizes: the Golden Lion, the Lion of the Year and the Lion of the Future to best director`s debut film.



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