Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Anybody Can Do Anything, Especially Scorsese: The Musical

This entry is in celebration of the Martin Scorsese blog-a-thon hosted by LAMB. If God was a man he’d be Scorsese, so ummm, contribute and head over and check out the other entries tomorrow.
Scorsese is really diverse – even though we don’t always realise it. He’s known for his gritty crime dramas, but he does period, he does sports, he gets religious, he goes epic and even touches on foreign drama – and of course the musical. The story behind New York/New York is legend now. Released in 1977 a year after Taxi Driver, it was a flop and poorly received by critics and audiences and led Scorsese into a depression which eventually led to the now legendary Raging Bull. It’s one of those nice comeback stories, and we all love a comeback; but New York/New York has more worth than being a catalyst for that 1980 classic. If anything New York/New York is the proof that Scorsese can do anything. The film is a tribute to the Golden Age of musical as Scorsese creates an ode to the period, it’s not perfect but it’s splendid. It’s something that you can count on Scorsese for, though. He never skimps on the technicalities.
The story is slight. A wannabe starlet and musician form a relationship and the film chronicles their experiences. I’ve been one of the many to remark that Lars Von Trier likes to f*** with you (it’s why he’s not one for me). I will admit that Scorsese tends to do it every now and then two. We spend almost half an hour in what seems like a flawed Woody Allen comedy of sorts until Marty decides to start throwing wrenches at us. Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro – both Oscar winners already – star as the couple and they’re good together. I’m always more than slightly miffed that Liza is not as highly regarded as she should be. New York/New York isn’t a love story, but the chemistry between she and Robert shines brighter than even the most iconic of Marty’s romances. They’re excellent together, but it’s Minnelli of course who shines brighter. It’s a pity that the film has become forgotten, it’s probably the most dramatic work I’ve seen her do (yes, even more than Cabaret). She’s never looked (or sounded) more like her mother, but she’s also never been so tender. Minnelli is the proof of how acting in musicals is more than singing, she sells her speaking part as well as her singing, and her rendition of “But the World Goes Round” is a piercing moment of the film as is her performance of the eponymous theme song.
But this writeup is about Marty, and it’s as it should be. Because, really, when it’s all said and done he’s really the star of this piece. You wouldn’t believe it’s a Scorsese picture if you were just an incidental fan of his. The culmination of his talents (averse to his usual fare) occurs in a ten minute musical spectacle where Liza Minnelli (opposite Broadway star Larry Kert) transport – literally – to the world of old musicals. The colour, the costumes, the lighting the editing is all fantastic and it’s a shame that this film couldn’t have at least been remembered for its astounding technical proficiencies. 1977 was a good year for film – The Turning Point, Annie Hall, Julia, Star Wars, The Goodbye Girl and more. But it’s a pity that New York/New York got lost in the shovel. It’s not one of my favourite films, and sure it’s not Scorsese’s best. But I’ll stand by it, Scorsese never made a bad film [yet] – it’s not perfect but you’ll laugh, you might cry and you’ll sure as hell want to be a musician afterwards. Trust me, you’ll be entertained.
....just take a look at this ten minutes spectacle...
and just because, here's another song from Liza...her mother's daughter...
No one does it like it Marty!

1 comment:

CS said...

Great write-up! I actually agree with all of it. It may not be part of Scorsese's best works but it still deserves more love than it gets nowadays.