Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Francine Evans & Jimmy Doyle go head to head again

Summer re-runs: as my Facebook friend Martin is having a mini-Scorsese season, here's another look at NEW YORK NEW YORK, one of my favourite Marty's, up there with TAXI DRIVER .... its perhaps his flawed masterpiece, his A STAR IS BORN !
Our "Sunday Times" recently ran a new interview with Robert De Niro in their 'Culture' magazine, the usual fawning stuff - as usual De Niro had nothing much to say (like when he was on tv last week on our Graham Norton Show, where he was just there to plug a silly new movie), the magazine interview by Bryan Appleyard name-checked those great Scorsese-De Niro collaborations MEAN STREETSTAXI DRIVERRAGING BULLTHE KING OF COMEDYGOODFELLASCAPE FEAR, CASINO - but did not mention their 1977 NEW YORK NEW YORK which seems to be considered something of a flop these days.

I though loved it at the time, and went to its first run and saw it several times and also got the double vinyl gatefold soundtrack album - it was just before the home video explosion when a soundtrack album was the best souvenir available.
An egotistical saxophone player and a young singer meet on V-J Day and embark upon a strained and rocky romance, even as their careers begin a long uphill climb - he becomes a great jazz musician while she becomes a famous vocalist and movie star, can they rekindle their romance?

After the huge success of TAXI DRIVER, not just a cult movie but popular too, Scorsese was riding high, and was able to mount his follow-up on a big scale. Just as the story and situation mimic those of old musicals, NEW YORK NEW YORK's production design aims to recreate those movies' stylized, artificial sets and visuals. I understand it was a troubled (cocaine-fuelled apparantly) shoot which over-ran - the big "Happy Endings" number with Larry Kert (Liza's "Born in a Trunk"?) was removed, but everything about it worked for me. The colour and music, that great long opening sequence when we realise how obnoxious Jimmy Doyle is (for me his jazzman is as good as his Travis Bickle), those scenes of their doomed romance - the artificial trees in that scene in the snow, when he attacks Francine for getting pregnant.  The songs are great too, some in the '40s style of Peggy Lee, and Diahnne Abbot as the Harlem club singer whose  "Honeysuckle Rose" is in  the style of Billie Holiday. The title song by Liza, with that marvellous staging, is the definitive version (sorry, Frank). It and CABARET are Liza's defining moments, and it is certainly a great De Niro performance. It is really a movie buff's musical as Scorsese recreates '40s and '50s musicals - perhaps his A STAR IS BORN ?  Scorsese's opus too was cut from 163 minutes to about 130 for various releases. Its certainly though, as those French cinebuffs say, a film maudit ...
Perhaps the bittersweet ending where they both walk away from a proposed meeting did not work for audiences? and De Niro does not play for sympathy as Jimmy Doyle is certainly an abusive husband. 1977 was the era of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, but surely the ANNIE HALL crowd would have embraced NEW YORK, NEW YORK?  Scorsese's later films with Leonardo DiCaprio do not work for me in the same way as his with De Niro. Now for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, I just wasn't particularly interested in seeing SHUTTER ISLAND. We also loved his documentary on George Harrison and his documentary on Italian cinema ... (Scorsese label)

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