Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli, Lionel Stander, Barry Primus, Mary Kay Place, Georgie Auld, George Memmoli, Dick Miller, Murray Moston, Lenny Gaines, Clarence Clemons, Kathi McGinnis, Norman Palmer, Adam David Winkler, Dimitri Logothetis
Written by: Earl Mac Rauch, Mardik Martin
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 163
Date: 06/21/1977

New York, New York (1977)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Spreadin' the News

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Martin Scorsese attempts to pay tribute to his musical forefathers, specifically Vincente Minnelli, with this colorful, misguided epic. Robert De Niro stars as a WWII veteran who returns home on V-Day and attempts to pick up a WAC (Liza Minnelli) at a huge party. Their fates intertwine as she becomes a popular singer and he attempts to make a living playing hot jazz saxophone in a style that would not quite catch on until years later.

Scorsese hopes to show the realistic, dreary downtime between the genre's happy musical numbers, but he winds up with an uneven and slightly repellent mix. De Niro plays his role very close to Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, and it's hard to see him as a groundbreaking, talented musician when he acts like a psychotic loser. Liza Minnelli is terribly miscast here; she has her mother's caterwauling singing voice and a kind of abrasive character quality.

It doesn't help that Scorsese focuses on the tragedy of the couple's relationship, emphasizing an unwanted child and a completely baffling ending. New York, New York has some delightful musical moments, however, especially one in which De Niro, standing on an elevated subway platform, silently watches a sailor and a girl dancing, Fred and Ginger-like, below.

Many people consider The Color of Money Scorsese's weakest film, but I'd take that film's slick/sleazy energy over this one any day.

MGM/UA's new DVD completes, I believe, the library of Martin Scorsese films available on DVD. It comes with an introduction by Scorsese, a commentary track by Scorsese and film critic Carrie Rickey, alternate takes, deleted scenes, a photo gallery and trailers. In 2011, a Blu-Ray was released, with all these extras plus a few more.

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