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New York Stories (1989)

One city. Three stories tall.

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 124 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: 15


Anthology movies generally tend, by their very nature, to be a bit self-indulgent, whilst rarely featuring the most riveting of stories. ‘New York Stories’, a humdrum collection of three largely-forgettable 40-minute showcases from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen, shows little sign of breaking that particular mould.

Scorsese is first up with ‘Life Lessons’, a sporadically-seedy art-world drama handled with no less than the level of jerky enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from the man. With its hot-potato camera-movements and swift delivery it’s certainly a vibrant presentation, but sadly it’s a less than fascinating tale. It stars Nick Nolte as an artist who takes in a young protégé (Rosanna Arquette), not because of any great desire to help her career, but essentially because he quite fancies his chances. The trouble is, her paintings are rubbish. What’s more, she knows her paintings are rubbish. And HE knows her paintings are rubbish too. But can either of them bring themselves to say it? Can they chocolate. And, while we’re on the subject of ‘Life Lessons’, here’s just such a lesson: if you want a job done, don’t ask Nolte – unless the job involves beating a hillbilly across the spine with a pool cue, that is.

Number two, easily the weakest of the tales, is Coppola’s ‘Life Without Zoe’. This utter dirge of a piece is something of a family affair for the Coppolas, what with Francis Ford directing, sister Talia Shire taking one of the lead roles, daddykins Carmine doing the music and daughter Sofia co-writing and designing the costumes. But, save for a splendid performances from 11-year-old Heather McComb as the spoiled rich kid of the title who does very little of any interest over the course of the 40 minutes, it’s a load of doggy’s doo-dah.

The part I enjoyed the most was the third and final segment, ‘Oedipus Wrecks’, an increasingly-surreal comedy from Woody Allen. Wooders plays the nervy Sheldon, a man whose life is consumed by the constant nagging of his mother-dearest (Mae Questral). It features a great set-up and has one fantastic scene in the middle surrounding strange goings-on at a magic show, but after that the story departs from the realms of funny and heads straight for plain old weird. So, in other words, even the best of the three films isn’t really up to much.

It's Got: A blink-and-you-miss-her big screen debut from Kirsten Dunst.

It Needs: To have found some tales good enough to match the skills of its directors.

DVD Extras Nope. Version reviewed: New York Stories DVD Extras Rating: 0/10


Never mind “New York” stories – some “good” stories would be a nice start.