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New York, New York Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jun 10, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    New York, New York (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Martin Scorsese

    Studio: MGM/UA
    Year: 1977

    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 163 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, others
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, others

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 19.99


    Release Date: June 7, 2011

    Review Date: June 10, 2011



    The Film

    3.5/5


    Of his considerable and generally lauded output, New York, New York is director Martin Scorsese’s most controversial endeavor. For many, it’s his nadir: an overproduced, overlong spectacle that wasted his gifts on material unworthy of the time and money spent on it. But there are others who see its admirable qualities: performances of top quality, production design of astonishing variety, a song score of superb craftsmanship, and a rather fascinating amalgamation of studio artifice with the rawer, more genuine emotions of a modern movie scenario. Undeniably the film has its flaws: it’s sometimes overindulgent basking in improvisatory scenes which accomplish nothing and run too long, and the production design varies in quality and effectiveness as if money had run out and the skill level of the production’s effects sank appreciably. And with a leading character who’s impossible to like, it makes spending almost three hours with him something of a chore. Regardless, the movie is effective despite its numerous flaws and certainly isn’t worthy of the scorn that is often heaped upon it.


    After the end of World War II, jazz saxophonist Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) is not having much luck finding a gig with big band orchestras which play the kind of square music that’s an anathema to him. Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), a talented vocalist now free of her USO obligations, brings Jimmy with her to an audition where he’s signed on due to her urging and eventually takes over the band with Francine as lead vocalist. The two eventually marry even though Jimmy is often short with her and denigrates her abilities while building up his own following. When Francine finds herself pregnant, she leaves the band and begins doing studio vocal work often doing demo recordings in the styles of other famous singers of the day. She’s discovered by a Decca Records executive and signed to a contract, something especially irksome to Jimmy since he lost his band gig when Francine was no longer around to bring in the customers. Though the pair clearly love one another, the oil and water mixture of their talents and temperaments suggests rocky times ahead for the duo.


    The original Earl MacRauch screenplay, later adapted by Mardik Martin, seems to have used the unhappy, abusive first marriage of big band singer-turned-recording and movie star Doris Day and big band trombonist Al Jorden as the inspiration for the dysfunctional relationship between Francine and Jimmy. Other movie stories of sad, combative pairings of two artists found in movies like My Dream Is Yours, Love Me or Leave Me, and A Star Is Born (the first two eerily starring Doris Day) also seemed to have been mined for script ideas. Scorsese’s conception was to do an old-fashioned Hollywood studio-bound musical with the syntax and tone of modern melodrama; the entire movie was filmed on soundstages which sometimes surprise in their effectiveness and oddly accurate depiction of “movie New York,” but at other times the stylized studio-bound exteriors like on the outskirts of a forest or at a train terminal are tacky mock-ups to what the studios would have done twenty or thirty years earlier. Scorsese’s greatest misstep, however, is his inability to cut scenes that go on way past their effectiveness. The first hour of the film is crammed with them from the wonderfully directed but way too long VJ-Day ballroom scene (where Tommy Dorsey plays almost half a dozen numbers while Doyle prowls around hitting on various ladies) to a rain-drenched taxicab scene where Doyle won’t let Francine escape his ardent lovemaking.


    The actors do a generally great deal of improvising during the movie, some of it completely natural but at other times obviously and unsatisfyingly oblique. Robert De Niro’s Jimmy is the volcanic embodiment of a human being, capable of intense explosions without warning and never being able to temper his temper with restraint. It’s clearly cut from the same volatile cloth as many of his other career creations, and he also does a more than acceptable miming job playing tenor saxophone (dubbed on the soundtrack by Georgie Auld).


    As for Liza Minnelli, her acting blazes forth more feelingly as the picture progresses. She’s clearly dominated by De Niro in the film’s first half, but comes into her own later and clearly owns the picture’s last half hour. Surprisingly, she doesn’t get to sing until a full thirty minutes into the movie, but her ability to pull back her well-known belt to conform to the more sedate requirements of a big band singer are laudable, and she’s never sounded better than singing such monumental period tunes as “The Man I Love,” “Just You, Just Me,” and “Once in a While.” Of course, when she becomes a star, the new Kander and Ebb tunes for the picture begin to transform her into the singing powerhouse she was at the time etching career-peaking performances of “But the World Goes ‘Round” and “New York, New York” (which, unbelievably, was not nominated for a Best Song Oscar that year, one of the cruelest injustices in the history of the Best Song prize). But the director’s cut featured on this disc errs by reinstating the twenty-minute “Happy Endings” sequence which sets up the contrast of Francine’s make-believe movie happiness with the sad realities of her real life. The Kander and Ebb special material here just isn’t up to their best work, and while it’s obvious Scorsese and Minnelli were trying to give their opus the same kind of tour de force sequence like “Born in a Trunk” that distinguished her mother Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born, the wit and musical polish and versatility just isn’t there.


    As for other actors in the piece, Lionel Stander has a good couple of scenes as Francine’s agent while Mary Kay Place does a hilarious cornpone rendition of “Blue Moon” as Francine’s replacement on the bandstand. Barry Primus does not get enough screen time to establish his waiting-in-the-wings lover of Francine as accompanist Paul Wilson while Murray Moston, Lenny Gaines, and Clarence Clemons jam with De Niro as fellow jazz aficionados. Diahnne Abbott (who later went on to wed star Robert De Niro) does a melting version of “Honeysuckle Rose.”



    Video Quality

    3.5/5


    The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and features 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Color can sometimes take on a dated appearance, but at its best, it can be appropriately lush and impressive especially in the "Happy Endings" sequence. Flesh tones are more than adequately represented. Sharpness varies, too, with an occasional haze over the image sometimes causing the transfer to lose some detail. Black levels are only average at best. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    3.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix features more than acceptable fidelity, but the spread is really across the front screen channels with very little drifting toward the rears either in terms of music or ambient sound. Dialogue is sometimes a bit muffled with music drowning out words, and the LFE channel doesn’t kick out much deep bass to give added emphasis to all the superb music on the soundtrack.



    Special Features

    4/5


    The audio commentary edits together comments from director Martin Scorsese (who’s very candid about his film’s flaws as well as its highlights) and film critic Carrie Rickey who’s a great champion of the movie.


    Unless otherwise noted, the featurettes are presented in 480i.


    An introduction by Martin Scorsese merely edits together comments by the director which appear in the lengthy making-of featurettes also on this disc. These remarks run 5 ½ minutes.


    There are twenty alternate takes/deleted scenes collected in a montage sequence that runs 19 ¼ minutes. The separate scenes do not have individual access.


    New York, New York Stories – Part One and Part Two” are two featurettes featuring remarks on the making of the movie by the production staff including director Martin Scorsese, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, and film editor Tom Rolf. Together they paint a very clear picture of the production's successes and problems in these pieces which run 25 ½ minutes and 27 minutes respectively.


    Liza Minnelli recalls her film experiences in a 22 ¼-minute featurette in which she summarizes her early life in Hollywood before launching into behind-the-scenes stories about the film’s production, her approach to the character, her initial reticence at improvising, and her love of the songs she got to sing in the movie.


    Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs comments briefly on four or five selected scenes in the movie in this 10 ¼-minute vignette.


    The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 3 ½ minutes while the teaser trailer runs for 2 ½ minutes. Both are in 1080p.



    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)


    New York, New York was certainly a one-time experiment for director Martin Scorsese in the movie musical genre, and there is enough that’s right about it for the film to have earned its place as a recommendable film despite some obvious flaws and lapses. A nice selection of bonus feature material has been ported over to give the Blu-ray added value.



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
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  2. Richard M S

    Richard M S Supporting Actor

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    Great review. I noticed there is no mention of the 20 minutes or so of deleted footage and alternate takes found on the laser disc box set. Has that been included?
     
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Oops. They're definitely there. I skipped over them when I was writing the review. I'll add it back in now. Thanks for noticing that.
     
  4. koolgrap

    koolgrap Auditioning

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    Can you please tell me what other languages are available on the disc? Audio and subtitles?


    MGM covers are mostly wrong, because they state less languages that are actually available on the disc.
     
  5. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    The other audio tracks are for Spanish, Italian, German, and Castellano.


    The subtitle tracks, other than those already named, are German, Castellano, Cantonese, Dutch, Suoni, Russian, Magyar, Norweigian, Portuguese, and the English commentary track. There were a couple of others, but I didn't understand what the symbols meant in the set-up menu.
     
  6. koolgrap

    koolgrap Auditioning

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    Thank you. I've wanted German to be on the disc.
     
  7. Message #7 of 8 Apr 29, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
    benbess

    benbess Producer

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    I'm watching this movie now for the first time, 42 years after it came out. It's quite elaborate, but as the review says meandering. Robert De Niro's character is difficult to take and annoying a lot of the time imho, but the musical numbers with Liza Minnelli are good, and the production and costume design are first rate.

    PS Even with its big finish NY, NY doesn't make my top 10 list of Scorsese films....
    1. Shutter Island
    2. The Age of Innocence
    3. The Aviator
    4. The Departed
    5. Hugo
    6. Silence
    7. The Last Temptation of Christ
    8. Gangs of New York
    9. Taxi Driver
    10. After Hours

    I still haven't seen Raging Bull, Kundun, or King of Comedy. I'm not likely to see the boxing movie (since I just can't stomach those), but I have the King of Comedy blu-ray and I'm likely to give that a spin at some point.
     
  8. Robin9

    Robin9 Producer

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    Not only your honest opinion, I assure you.
     
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