Saturday 26 March 2016

New York Stories (1989)


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Woody Allen | Francis Ford Coppola | Martin Scorsese




Woody Allen, Mae Questel, Mia Farrow, George Schindler, Larry David, Heather McComb, Talia Shire, Giancarlo Giannini, Don Novello, Julie Kavner, Nick Nolte, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Jesse Borrego, Mike Starr, James Keane, Adrien Brody, Chris Elliott, Peter Gabriel, Illeana Douglas, Deborah Harry, Carmine Coppola, Holly Marie Combs, Kirsten Dunst


A middle-aged artist (Nick Nolte) obsessed with his pretty young assistant (Rosanna Arquette), a precocious 12 year old (Heather McComb) living in a hotel, and a neurotic lawyer (Woody Allen) with a possessive mother (Mae Questel) make up three Gotham tales.


In this week's Allen flick, Woody teamed up with two other great American directors, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, in "New York Stories", an uneven anthology that still worths a watch.

The best way to review this film is by analysing each fragment individually, so let me start from the beginning.

Martin Scorsese's "Life Lesson" is an interesting little drama, beautifully written and wonderfully directed that tells the obsession of painter for his young assistant and shows the crisis he goes through due to the abandonment of the girl he loves. The photography is beautiful as well as the music, and some scenes are simply mesmerizing: the brush moves before the camera, and thanks to the very loud music playing in the background, feels like it is saying more than the story itself. This fragment also features Nick Nolte's wonderful and intense performance as the painter, and Rosanna Arquette's effective and very realistic performance as his lover.

Then comes Francis Ford Coppola's "Life Without Zoe", and the film starts to sink. The problem with this short film is that Sofia Coppola co-written it with her father, and it looks more like a fairy tale than a segment coming from a director of Coppola's caliber. And it's actually unbelievable that the same Sofia, years later, made films such as "The Virgin Suicides" and "Lost in Translation". There is really nothing good about this part. This is bad on every level, from the writing and acting to the absurd theme song. But I don't think it's fair to blame only Sofia, because Francis still co-written it. 

And at last Woody's "Oedipus Wrecks" is quite amusing. The story is funny and follows Woody Allen surprisingly playing a neurotic New Yorker, this time embarrased because his mother is always bothering him. I won't spoil anything, but the development of this story is so weird and funny, and Allen also proves he still owns comedy.

Bottom line, Scorsese's is superb and a little masterpiece, Coppola's is absolutely pointless and Allen's is a wonderful piece of entertainment. Thank you Coppola(s) for running a great project.


  1. I think it is still a film worth seeing despite the Coppola story. Great review.

  2. I remember seeing a segment of the "Oedipus Wrecks" part in a class in college. We didn't watch the whole thing and I have never gone back to watch it, but I've always wondered what happened to the mother!