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New York, New York (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 12, 2011 by  



A Martin Scorsese musical masterpiece that was ahead of its time and was too different for audiences to appreciate compared to his more grittier films.  “New York, New York” is a wonderful Scorsese film that is artistic, entertaining and bold for its time.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1977 Metro Goldwyn Mayer. All Rights Reserved

TITLE: New York, New York

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1977

DURATION: 163 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

RATED: PG

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2011

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by Earl Mac Rauch, Mardik Martin

Story by Earl Mac Rauch

Producer by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler

Associate Producer: Gene Kirkwood

Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs

Edited by Bert Lovitt, David Ramirez, Tom Rolf

Casting by Lynn Stalmaster

Production Design by Boris Leven

Art Direction by Harry Kemm

Set Decoration by Robert De Vestel, Ruby R. Levitt

Costume Design by Theadora Van Runkle

Starring:

Liza Minnelli as Francine Evans

Robert De Niro as Jimmy Doyle

Lionel Stander as Tony Harwell

Barry Primus as Paul Wilson

Mary Kay Place as Bernice Bennett

Georgie Ault as Frankie Harte

George Memmoli as Nicky

Dick Miller as Palm Club Owner

Murray Moston as Horace Morris

Lenny Gaines as Artie Kirks

Clarence Clemons as Cecil Powell

Kathi McGinnis as Ellen Flannery

Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese teams with Academy Award® winners* Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro in this splashy, flashy musical spectacle celebrating the glorious days of the Big Band Era in the Big Apple! Jimmy is a joint-jumpin’ saxophonist on his way to stardom. Francine is a wannabe starlet who dreams of singing in the spotlight. When they meet, sparks fly and when he plays and she sings, they set New York on fire! It’s the beginning of a stormy relationship, as the two struggle to balance their passions for music and each other under the pressures of big-time show biz.

A Martin Scorsese musical masterpiece that was ahead of its time and was too different for audiences to appreciate compared to his more grittier films.  “New York, New York” is a wonderful Scorsese film that is artistic, entertaining and bold for its time.  Highly recommended!

With tremendous success and publicity and notoriety with his 1976 film “Taxi Driver”, filmmaker Martin Scorsese was called upon to direct his next film titled “New York, New York” that would be reminiscent of classic MGM musicals.

But the main difference is instead of the typical happy ending of those musicals and everything is happy and cheerful, Scorsese’s “New York, New York” would be much darker, more realistic but yet having elements of those Technicolor musicals of yesteryear.

Featuring another collaboration with Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, the leading lady for this film would be Liza Minneli, the daughter of Judy Garland and filmmaker Vincente Minnelli and an actress who has had success in her younger age with a Tony Award at the age of 19 and an Academy Award nomination in 1972 for her role in “The Sterile Cuckoo” and eventually winning an Oscar for her role in the 1972 film “Cabaret”.

While “New York, New York” is known for its theme song and the song of New York City (and used for the New York Yankees), surprisingly, while nominated for four Golden Globe Awards in 1978, the film was denied any nomination during the Academy Awards and to this day, many film critics feel that not only is the film another masterpiece from Martin Scorsese but that possibly due to the status of the film industry at the time, the film was ahead of its time.

As mentioned, the film had a darker theme written by Earl Mac Rauch and Mardik Martin and the goal was to not create a happy and cheerful film of Hollywood’s musical past but to feature a film about two creative people who love each other but can not be with each other because of their dedication to their craft.  They are nothing without their careers and for them, their careers come first.  A more realistic portrayal of creative music artists who strive to meet their goals before they can commit to anything personal.

Unfortunately, “New York, New York” was a box office failure for Martin Scorsese and despite being known for creating gritty films, he wanted to try something different and people didn’t go for it.  Created for $14 million (a lot during those years), the film would only make over $13 million and would literally put Scorsese in depression which would lead him to heavy drug use.  Fortunately, Scorsese bounced back three years later with “Raging Bull” but to this day, many critics and fans of “New York, New York” feel that the film was ahead of its time.

“New York, New York” begins with America celebrating V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day) and a celebration is being held in a NYC nightclub.  As the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is playing, a forceful and abrasive man named Jimmy Doyle (played by Robert De Niro) is desperately wanting to get laid and tries to sweet talk all the women he comes in contact with to no avail.

He spots a woman sitting by herself and tries to get close to her.  The woman is Francine Evans (played by Liza Minnelli) and Francine is not at all interested in Jimmy.  If anything, she is awaiting for her friend, so they can leave.  But things work in Jimmy’s favor as his best friend has shacked up with Francine’s best friend and thus leaving the two together.

As their friends are busy making love, Jimmy who is a professional saxophone player and Francine, a singer are trying to get to their auditions and that following day, both end up sharing a cab and Francine ends up accompanying Jimmy to an audition.  Unfortunately, the audition goes terrible for Jimmy as he wants to show off his creative music side, which the person holding an audition is not interested.  Quick thinking by Francine, she starts singing “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” and Jimmy starts playing and not only does he and the band get hired, Francine is offered a job as well as the lead vocalist.

From that moment in time, both Jimmy and Francine get to live out their dreams in life, performing in front of big crowds at various nightclubs and dance halls and each time they spend time together, they fall in love.

Granted, the two are quite the opposites as Jimmy has a hot-temper, yells a lot and gets very jealous.  For Francine, she is more reserved but she knows how to hold her own against Jimmy.  Both are creative and passionate people who love their craft but at the same time, they know they love each other and in fact, both get married.  If anything, both want to succeed in what they are doing and stay together.

That is until Francine tells him that she is pregnant with his child.  Both try to be happy about the situation but the truth is that her pregnancy will interfere with Francine’s plans as a singer and going on tour and it will affect Jimmy who leads the traveling music act as he starts to notice that an act without Francine and using another woman is not exactly packing the houses any longer.

Their life has changed and they know that their lives will not be the same because of the baby.  And for these creative people who chase their dreams of performing on the big stage, the change in their lives because of the pregnancy thrusts them into darkness, depression and anger and with their emotions running negative, will this couple ever be the same again?

 

VIDEO:

“New York, New York” is presented in Widescreen 1:66:1, 1080 p High Definition.  The film comes with mixed results.  For the most part, the film definitely is quite vibrant with many colors and detail.   There is a good amount of grain and black levels were nice and deep. So, for a 1977 film, it looked very good and not as aged for the majority of the film.

But I did notice there were a few scenes that looked its age and suddenly became very high in noise.  Somehow the film negative may have been affected as there is a high noise level that shows up for a number of scenes, especially during Liza Minnelli’s musical scenes. You can see the difference as the majority of the scenes are quite clear but when you get to these few scenes, it’s just too high in noise and tends to make those scenes look quite aged.

But once again, this is not throughout the entire film, just for several scene and I’m confident to say that this is the best version of the film in terms of picture quality to date!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“New York, New York” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French 5.1 DTS.  The film is primarily a dialogue and music driven film.  Dialogue is clear but it’s the music scenes that come alive via lossless. It’s not the most immersive soundtrack but the music for the film definitely comes alive compared to its original DVD counterpart.

Subtitles are English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“New York, New York” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Martin Scorsese and Film Critic Carrie Rickey – A wonderful commentary featuring insight by Martin Scorsese and filling in those silent times is film critic Carrie Rickey who gets into the cinema/artistic feel of the film and how it was the film was ahead of its time.
  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese – (5:36) Director Martin Scorsese talks about the the premise of the film, his goal, the original aspect ratio and what he used for the final cut of the film and his goal to recreate a MGM musical but more realistic in nature.
  • Alternate Takes/Deleted Scenes – (19:14) Featuring some of the improvisational scenes (21 total) that were deleted in the final version of the film.
  • The New York, New York Stories, Part One – (25:31) Featuring Producers Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and Editor Tom Rolf talking about the film from its screenplay, financing, hiring of the talent, cinematography, their feeling of not getting an Academy Award for the music and Frank Sinatra making “New York, New York” popular and more.
  • The New York, New York Stories, Part Two – (26:58) Featuring Producers Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and Editor Tom Rolf talking about the film, the broken window door scene, mixed reality with abstract, emotions of the film, the dark theme/creativity, timing schedules and more.
  • Liza on New York, New York – (22:09) Liza Minnelli growing up in show business, working with De Niro, working on the film and her memorable scenes of the film and her favorite songs.
  • Commentary on Selected Scenes by Laszlo Kovacs, ASC – (10:14) Cinematographer talking about various scenes of the film.
  • Trailers – “New York, New York” Theatrical Trailer (3:27) and teaser trailer (2:07).

As a big fan of the classic musicals, including the Technicolor musicals, I admit that before I watched “New York, New York” many years ago, I was more interested in Scorsese’s more darker, grittier films such as “Mean Streets”, “Taxi Driver” and even “Raging Bull”.

But there is one thing that I appreciated “New York, New York” for and that is for Scorsese to have the opportunity to do something different, something artistic and to create a film with a deep and darker storyline but yet utilizing the classic style of musicals to create a film that is realistic and passionate!

For anyone who knows anyone that is involved as professional musician, singer or even a thespian, there is a commitment that we see by these creative individuals where they can fall in love, mess around and have fun but until they reach that pinnacle in their lives and feeling a sense of accomplishment, their careers are a priority.

In the case of “New York, New York”…like anyone who has big dreams to accomplish something big in their career, for Jimmy Doyle and Francine Evans, these two were riding sky high.  Jimmy Doyle as a saxophonist and a leader of their musical group, Francine as the well-loved singer and these two along with their big band would perform live and were very much a talented group.

But the truth is that although the two love each other (and are very much opposites), but the fact is that not only are they driven by their musical career, they have different paths of what they want to accomplish.  For Francine, it’s performing and becoming part of that musical scene, releasing albums and just entertaining people with her voice.  For Jimmy, it’s to be a creative type and showcasing his style of saxophone playing that is different.  Wanting to make it and be appreciated for his work.

But their own personal satisfaction and drive is different.  And there is only so much that love can do for these two people as they do love each other but career comes first.  And when a baby comes into the picture, they begin to panic and realize how their lives are no longer going to be the same with a baby.  For Jimmy, he knows that it affects his career tremendously but yet he tries to play things off as it doesn’t affect him.  A tough guy he manages to be, but deep inside, he lives in a facade of fear that he will lose everything and Francine is no different.

She depends on Jimmy to make her feel that everything is OK but Jimmy is not exactly that supportive.  He feels that with the baby, he is sacrificing his livelihood, while she can use her voice and still manage to record an album and live out her dreams.  He has nothing without his music.

“New York, New York” is interesting and intriguing because it does focus on that aspect of life that many musicians and creative types go through.  This is something that you will not see in MGM musicals from the ’30s to the ’60s.  But Scorsese wanted to make things real but yet experiment with the abstract.

Once again, there are many who appreciate his artistic take on the film but the film is too much of a departure from his previous work that many expected something much more deeper and darker since his last film “Taxi Driver” and also, the ’70s were not a time where classic style of musicals were thriving during that era.  May it be the disco-driven style of “Saturday Night Fever” or Abba music, the ’50s greaser style of “Greese” or even the hippie style of “Hair”,  the late ’70s was an interesting time period and “New York, New York” was not appreciated.

Fortunately, times have changed and many people are beginning to discover this film and considering it as one of Scorsese’s masterpiece and what better than now than to have this release on Blu-ray.  All the special features that were included on the DVD release are included on the Blu-ray (note: the majority of the special features are all in standard definition) and the picture and audio quality is a worthy upgrade compared to its previous video versions.  Make no doubt about it, this Blu-ray release is the definitive version to own for now!

It’s important to note that if you do own the original two-disc DVD, the DVD does have the photo galleries with the research photos, French lobby cards and many images from the film.  The Blu-ray release does not contain the photo gallery.

Overall, I do know that this film is not for everyone.  While not an all-out musical, during the latter part of the film, we get to see Liza Minnelli in various musical sequences and it’s an interesting form of experimentation for this film.  I enjoyed it, others may not.  This film is nothing like “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” or any of the more grittier Scorsese films but Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli do a wonderful job playing their role and the improvisation that was heavily used in “Taxi Driver” was also utilized for this film.

Combined with wonderful acting, updated writing, beautiful cinematography and just the studio and producers willingness to give Scorsese a chance to do something experimental and different, while this film may have not succeeded in the box office back then, it’s great to see “New York, New York” being recognized nearly 40-years later.  It’s a unique film with a classic touch and I absolutely enjoyed it!

Highly recommended!

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