Released in 1977, Martin Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK instantly divided critical response--and, facing box office competition from no less than STAR WARS, proved a major financial failure. A significantly edited re-release followed not long afterward but proved even less well received and even less profitable. Although a double VHS release eventually brought the film to the home market, the film remained unpopular and made barely a ripple in public consciousness. In 2005, however, NEW YORK, NEW YORK received an unexpected release to DVD. At long last it may begin to reach a significant audience.
As a story, NEW YORK, NEW YORK draws from a number of oddly "Noir-ish" musicals made at Warner Bros. in the late 1940s. Most particularly, according to Scorsese's commentary, it drew from MY DREAM IS YOURS, a film that not only starred Doris Day but actually reflected her life in its tale of a talented big band "girl singer" trapped in an abusive marriage with a musician. Although the film force-fed the audience a happy ending, later films would not. In the mid-1950s, Doris Day's LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME and Judy Garland's A STAR IS BORN offered stories of a gifted female vocalists locked into disastrous romances that played out to a very distinctly unhappy ending, and NEW YORK, NEW YORK draws from them as well.
Scorsese not only repeats the basic stories and themes of these films, he also repeats the artificially heightened visual style typical of Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s--it is no accident that Liza Minnelli looks and sings remarkably like mother Judy Garland in this film--but he does so to an entirely unexpected end. The bravado performing style of such films is completely snatched away, and the characters are presented in an almost documentary-like realism. In theory, each aspect of the film would emphasize the other; in fact, however, this was precisely what critics and audiences disliked about the film when it debuted. They considered it extremely grating.
But perhaps the passage of time has opened our eyes on the point. I saw NEW YORK, NEW YORK in its 1977 release and, music aside, I disliked it a great deal. I expected to retain that opinion when I approached the DVD release, but I was greatly surprised. It holds up remarkably well, and most of the time the balance of artifice and reality works very well. But there are significant flaws. In a general sense, the film has a cold feel to it that occasionally becomes so downright chilly you begin to detach from it. But even more difficult is the character of Jimmy Doyle, the abusive husband of the piece.
In his commentary, Scorsese notes that both he and actor Robert De Niro sought to push the character far beyond the extremes of MY DREAM IS YOURS, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, or A STAR IS BORN. They were perhaps more successful than they expected. The result is a character you actively do not want to watch or hear, and although we are eventually allowed to see beyond his annoying qualities that moment comes much too late in the film to make him acceptable in any significant way. It makes for more than one bout of uphill viewing.
Even those who didn't like the film in 1977 agreed that it looked good and the music was great, and although it isn't entirely ideal the DVD presentation is quite fine. Scorsese's introduction and commentary are excellent; he is, however, augmented by film critic Carrie Rickey, and while her remarks are often interesting they are a shade to academic in tone for consistent interest. The film has received a director's cut that restores the edits made for the second release as well as the "Happy Ending" number cut before the debut release, so the deleted scenes hold no great treasure; even so, they are interesting to watch.
Overall, I recommend the film--but it is very much a "Hollywood Insider" film that is probably best left to those who know a great deal about film history and who can recognize the numerous antecedents from which it draws.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
I'll start by rephrasing what I said about the last DVD edition
Even the non Special Edition of Boxcar Bertha from the Martin Scorsese Collection was presented in Widescreen , but alas New York, New York was only Letterboxed.
It only included the so called restored version of the film which is in reality only one of three versions released.
If any film is more deserving than The Abyss for a "watch it the way you want to" DVD release it's New York, New York.
The deleated / alternate scenes included did not represent the differences between the first and third versions of the film, nor do they include the scenes deleted from the first release to shorten the running time for the second run release.
The Laserdisc Special Edition release had more bonus material than was included on that DVD.
Guess we'll have to wait for the Ultimate Edition Boxed set for a truely special edition .
In the meantime this one will due.
Oct 2007: Pre - order pages are appearing for New York, New York: 30th Anniversary Edition, Reportedly 2 discs. Hopefully it's a vast improvement on the last one.
Details are starting to appear :
Mono - English, Spanish
Dolby Surround 5.1 - English
Subtitled - English, French, Spanish - Optional
Additional Release Material:
Disc 1: NEW YORK NEW YORK - Feature Presentation
Alternate Scenes - 1. Alternate Takes
2. Deleted Scenes
Audio Commentaries - 1. Martin Scorsese - Director
2. Carrie Rickey - Film Critic
Introduction - Martin Scorsese - Director
Trailers - 1. Theatrical Trailer
2. Teaser Trailer
3. MGM/UA Previews
Galleries - 1. French Lobby Cards
2. Original Posters
Stills/Photos - 1. Filmmakers, Cast & Crew
2. On Set
3. Research Photos
Disc 2: NEW YORK NEW YORK - Supplemental Material
Additional Release Material:
Audio Commentaries - Lazlo Kovacs, ASC - Cinematographer (Select Scenes)
Featurettes - 1. "The New York, New York Stories" Part One
2. "The New York, New York Stories" Part Two
3. "Liza on NEW YORK NEW YORK"
It still may not be the Ultimate Edition this film should have but in the meantime this one will due.
Sadly latest news is it's the same version ( so called director's cut)as the last release only and even the "Liza on New York New York" is abridged.
Only 5:35 minutes from a 30 minute segment done for an overseas release taped November 10th, 2003.
Shame on them.
on June 16, 2005
This is one of the most underrated films in the history of cinema. The first time I saw it I didn't know what to think. I wondered, why the fake looking sets and unbelievable costumes? Why did Scorsese seemingly overproduce a film that has such a great and raw script? This dvd helped me see why. Scorsese says that he wanted to put a raw, dramatic script into an old, early 40's style setting. He wanted to contrast the new with the old. The script is real, raw, and dramatic. The sets, costumes, and musical numbers are very highly produced. There's so much detail put into it. The city curb is a just a little high. The collars are just a little big. It really does remind you of an early 40's musical. Liza is the real star of this movie. Although I like Cabaret better as a whole, I would say that Liza as a singer, dancer, and actress is at her best in New York, New York.
on June 16, 2005
As you can see by the reviews, nobody is too sure what to rate this movie. I heard Liza Minnelli in an interview once refering to New York, New York as "dark". I think that is perfect. It's a story about musicians with music - It's not a musical. It's directed by probably one of the greatest american directors of our age - I think to enjoy it you need to clear your head of any preconceptions. After watching it - I couldn't make up my mind if I understood what the movie wanted to say... But then I thought! Gee - What happened to just appriciating a great story and some superb acting. There are very few movies like New York, New York for us to compare it to, I think that is the problem, people aren't sure what they got from the movie. I'm open minded enough not to need it to 'be' anything. The movie is dark and heavy, but then light and wishful. It's beautiful - and it's lead, Liza Minnelli looks very very beautiful. Thank god they released this on DVD. Wonderful.
on June 21, 2012
I checked this movie out from the library - not knowing what to expect - and after watching it, I simply cannot put into words how completely genius, strange, dark, and exciting this movie is! First of all, the chemistry between Deniro and Minnelli was so raw and real - you felt like you were watching a couple's private life as a fly on the wall. The sets are so strangely over the top that it just works! Also, the musical numbers - particularly the infamous "Happy Endings" number towards the end of the film was utterly amazing. You can't help but think of the songs/scenes days after. The story was a bit slow at times - but it was also very watchable and again, really stuck with you after seeing it. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who a.) Enjoys Scorcese films b.) Is a Robert Deniro Fan c.) A Liza Minnalli fan or d.) Simply enjoys a great drama or musical. I have no clue why this movie hasn't stood the test of time the way so many others have from this era. You will be reminded why Deniro is considered such an acting legend but also confused as to why Minnelli didn't make more films or why she isn't regarded as cinema's greatest talents. Overall, great movie and even better on blu ray!
on April 2, 2013
It's amazing what a few years of living can do to your perception. I saw this film in a theater in 1977, and again in the mid-80s when it was reedited and rereleased, and both times it left me cold. I thought Scorcese--one of my favorite directors--had jumped the track with his weird attempt at a musical. Now, almost 30 years after the last time I saw it, I got this 2-disc set from Amazon, thinking I'd give it one more try. And boy, was that a good idea! This isn't the movie I remember at all! But, of course, the movie hasn't changed--I have.
Scorcese is very interested in film history, and this film was his attempt to fuse the past (old-time big screen musicals like 42nd Street and Singin in the Rain) with the 1970s present (gritty, realistic character studies like his own Mean Streets and Taxi Driver), using the artificial old style to comment on the dark new one, and vice-versa. The hopes and dreams of the two main characters are contrasted with their grim reality, and we get a vivid idea of what they're experiencing. Minnelli was a perfect choice--she'd just done Cabaret, which used the same contrast idea to great effect, and our inevitable memories of her mother's movies (particularly A Star Is Born) helped sustain the illusion. De Niro is fine as the brooding, conflicted antihero, and his fake-playing in the musical scenes is very impressive. The big musical numbers and the painful, sometimes violent "book" scenes are a jarring combination. Together, they give us a real feel for the time and place of the story. Is it a complete success? No. But it's worth seeing, anyway.
I love Scorcese, mainly because he's one of the few directors who always take chances. His films don't look like anyone else's--he has his own definite stamp--and Hollywood is one place where individuality should always be encouraged. Let's just celebrate his vision, even here in NEW YORK, NEW YORK. It's not his best film, but it's a fascinating one. Recommended.
on February 11, 2005
This phenomenal achievement of the Scorcese-Minnelli-DeNiro triumvirate has never received the praise and appreciation it so winningly deserved. "New York, New York" is one of Martin Scorcese's breeziest films and he displays a lightness of touch he's not typically known for. The production values are first rate and the film fairly shimmers with the gleam of Old Hollywood from start to finish. This rather glossy touch actually heightens the tension of the very human drama being played out on screen. Scorcese makes this long film move like a short one with a camera that knows when to move and when to be still, and he coaxes the best out of his talented cast. Liza Minnelli delivers her finest performance here and was wickedly robbed of an Oscar nomination because of the film's poor reception. She's simply terrific in the musical numbers but, more importantly, she nails the emotional center of her character dead on and her quieter moments resonate with truthfulness and authority. Minnelli is a much better actress than she's ever been given credit for. Perhaps her rather quaint public persona and the endless travails of her personal life have distorted her talents in the eyes of the public. However, she's nothing short of superb here and she shows in her musical numbers why she has always been such a riveting performer. She has show biz in her very bones. The rather unexpected pairing of Minnelli and Robert DeNiro is actually quite right, and their chemistry is unmistakeable. DeNiro's later career has been a series of mannerisms and walk-throughs, but here he was in his prime and he plays his snarling and rather unlikeable character without compromise. You can sense what he needs and readily throws away through misguided ego and unrelenting drive. The qualities of these two disparate actors compliment each other repeatedly. I especially like the scene in rehearsal where he spanks her and she slams down the microphone and walks out. Short and sweet, but you get right away how much these two need each other but will never really work for one another. Mary Kay Place does a brief, rather ditzy turn as a band singer, showing the comic elan that brought her attention, but this is really the two stars' show and they never falter. Scorcese should be proud of this work because it accomplishes everything he set out to do. It should be noted that his commentary is both insightful and entertaining, a quality often lacking in DVDs, and the other extras, while not plentiful, add to understanding this film's creation. It will always be up to you "New York, New York".
on March 13, 2005
Martin Scorcese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK is a film that explores realism through a most unlikely medium--a homage to the movie musicals of the 1950s, particularly the more dark and dramatic musicals, such as Judy Garland's A STAR IS BORN and Doris Day's LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.
To many people 1977 does not seem like so very long ago, but to younger viewers and film enthusiasts who were not around then to see the movies firsthand, it can be a very daunting experience trying to hunt down obscure films from that time. I searched for about five years to find a decent copy of NEW YORK, NEW YORK, but was unlucky until finally it was released on DVD this year. I must say, along with THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, it was a very welcome release!
I am intrigued by many of the films of the 1970s and early 1980s that sought to explore earlier, more glamorous decades. Along with THE DAY OF THE LOCUST and FRANCES (1982), NEW YORK, NEW YORK is especially important for, if nothing else, a rare glimpse of Liza Minnelli at the peak of her beauty and talent. The film is an astounding showcase for her to emote, sing, and display incredible star quality at every turn. By the the time the great finale rolls around, with the theme song "New York, New York" sung with such bravado, it's easy to see what made Liza so famous. For many younger viewers, such as myself, who weren't around at the time, what made Liza famous (besides CABARET) is not readily apparent.
Finally, I will discuss the quality of the film, which is one of the truly great musicals. NEW YORK, NEW YORK is misunderstood primarily because it is so ambitious. For the sensitive viewer, who has great attention to significant details, the film is not flawed. The first time I watched it I considered it incredibly flawed, but the second time everything clicked for me. The idea behind the film was the put real life situations (including acting improvisation, etc.) into an artificial setting--in this case, a glitzy New York City during the big band era of the 1940s. The production is astounding at all levels. Nightclubs and streets and locations are recreated as if you are walking into the past, except better--this is the glamorous past created by the movies that didn't necessarily exist, but fuelled so many dreams. New York City was certainly movie heaven. The glittering skyline alone could make you dream of something better, and that's really what this movie is about. It's about wanting a happy ending, when it doesn't really exist.
For the two main characters, played so brilliantly by Robert Deniro and Liza Minnelli, that happy ending can't exist. Thus the magnificent lyric from the "Happy Endings" musical number that sums it all up: "Happy endings are only for the stars, not in the stars for me." And so we know that NEW YORK, NEW YORK can't end happily like so many musicals that came before, because this is the 1970s, and real life doesn't always end happy.
And real people do not always possess sympathetic qualities that win us over, or make us love them in the end. Robert Deniro's character is like many people we may have known in life, who we didn't like, and the movie doesn't bother trying to make us love him. Again, in real life, some people we just can't love. The main problem many people have with the film is their dislike of Robert Deniro's character, but in certain scenes he is touching, such as when he meets Liza in the hospital and says he doesn't want to see his son, because he is so genuine. We may not like him, but he is a genuine character.
There are other examples that may not be so obvious, of the realism the producers were trying to achieve: characters regularly flub their lines, people trip over chairs and bump into each other, and wine glasses are lifted with napkins stuck to the bottom. It's all so carefully constructed, and ultimately masterful.
The colors are reminiscent of A STAR IS BORN, Liza Minnelli reminds one of Judy Garland, but NEW YORK, NEW YORK belongs to Martin Scorsese. It is a misunderstood, but enduring, triumph.
on September 25, 2013
Scorcese rocks in the making of this film. Really great camera work. Love the music. It was nice to see Liza not bouncing all over the place and actually doing a very serious role with a very serious attitude. DeNiro is ok. I like the actor, but in this movie, eh, he's done better work. Still, he pulled it off and worked well with Liza. The ending was great. I won't give it away if you haven't seen it. But Scorcese makes you believe one thing.....and takes you the opposite way. Wow.
on September 28, 1999
This blew me away in 1977 and even more when they reissued it in 1981 with Liza's 12 minute production number "Happy Endings" fittingly restored. "New York, New York" has only recently begun to acquire the reputation it deserves, and if some cable outlet like AMC could obtain the rights and begin broadcasting it in primetime (rather than late night as its current owner, Turner Classic Movies, always seems wont to do), it will finally gain the audience it has always deserved. DeNiro truly was robbed of an Oscar nomination (1977 was a rather weak year for actors), and I would have stuck Liza in for Best Actress instead of "The Goodbye Girl"'s Marsha Mason. (If you are a fan of Minnelli's, this is an absolute must for your collection--her musical numbers are smashingly good.)