New York Stories: Three Tales of One City: Film Shorts by Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Woody Allen

The following is a post from Patrick G. Mackaronis. Patrick is the Director of Business Development for New York City-based social network Brabble. In this post, Patrick will tell us about some great writers of NYC. Patrick can be best reached on Twitter at @patty__mack.

Martin Scorsese’s Life Lessons

The first word that comes to mind in association with this short is ‘self-indulgent’. We follow they story of a highly-strung artist who struggles to maintain his relationship with his young assistant. Nick Nolte does a good job impersonating the podgy, neurotic, ambivalent abstract painter Lionel Dobie.

Opposite him, Rosanna Arquette as Paulette, the deluded young artist who trades her company to gain entrance into New York’s highest artistic circles. Tutelage in exchange for sex: this is a tale of people using each other for their own selfish needs.

Scorsese’s camera work mimics the restricted perspective of the artist who is totally oblivious of the side-effects of his actions. So when the lens closes in on a particular we experience the Dobie’s tunnel-vision. But these are tricks that, used too often, quickly become stale. Especially in a short, where the time is so limited, staring at Nolte as he squiggles over the lens over and over seems a waste of film.

Coppola’s Life Without Zoe

This story is neither here nor there. It tries to be a fairy-tale but it never really takes off and what we are left with is just an improbable tale. It lacks the spark, the attitude, the pizzazz one normally expects of a tale of kids left in charge of their own lives. Alas, this is the boring version of Home Alone. Even the robbery scene comes and goes with no remarkable note about it.

On a positive note, Giannini is his usual charming self and brings some warmth to this otherwise tepid enterprise. Yet, the rest of the performances are too contrived and prone to mannerism.

 

Aside from not being engaging, the single most annoying element of the short is that New York is not there. Why is this a ‘New York story’ at all? What makes it so? Certainly not the homeless’ assertion: “Oh, I love New York!” which is scrummed in as an afterthought right at the end and proclaimed by a random, faceless character. There is nothing particular to the city that stands out. This is a story that could be set in any other cosmopolitan metropolis.

Allen’s Oedipus Wrecks

After Coppola’s disappointing performance it is with a sigh of relief and an automatic relaxation of facial muscles that one welcomes Woody Allen’s familiarly neurotic face on the screen. Yes, it is yet another successful, neurosis ridden, insecure Jewish New Yorker who is being analysed. But this is Allen at his best and the ‘type’ he portrays here is not just a brilliant showcase for his work but also an appropriate representation of a sizable portion of the city male population. As in the Scorsese’s short, New York is a recognisable and irreplaceable part of the cast.

With a clever play on both the classic Oedipus and its subsequent psychoanalytical interpretation, Allen charges ahead and delivers a humorous, engaging, fast-paced comedy. The director appreciation of music really shows here and the soundtrack contributes a great deal to the general comic effect bringing echoes of old silent movies.

The idea of Sheldon’s mum hovering like a gigantic hologram over the New York’s skyline is simply genius and deserves a special mention. If one was forced to find a draw-back with this short, it would be that it is a short. The material and the plot could easily be developed in a long movie in its own right and one finds themselves wishing just that.

Credits

  • Directed by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese
  • Written by Woody Allen Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Richard Price
  • Starring Woody Allen, Nick Nolte, Mia Farrow, Giancarlo Giannini, Rosanna Arquette
  • Distributed by Touchstone Pictures

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