New York Stories Reviews
The Coppola segment is an absolute bore.
The Allen segment is smart, fun and hilarious short making it the best of the three.
Martin Scorsese's ''Life Lessons'':
The best of the 3 shorts. Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's short novel ''The Gambler,'' so the source material is a wise choice. It's great technically: camera panning, close-ups, slow motions, quick cuts... he packs it all in there (when it starts, it doesn't say whose short it is, but you never have a doubt in your mind once you see that camera move... classic Scorsese). Excellent use of music too. Nolte and Rosanna Arquette deliver great performances, but Nolte plays an obsessive creep which I couldn't relate to, so I was more sympathetic towards Arquette's character. The ending was pretty good, in a disturbing kind of way: Arquette escapes, but Nolte finds another mouse to prey on. It leaves you thinking: How long has he been sustaining his obsession and possession of women, manipulating them for his own benefit? A solid short about a tortured man's imprisonment in art. (4.5/5)
Francis Ford Coppola's ''Life Without Zoe'':
Easily the worst of the 3. A goofy little girl's story. It says written by Francis & Sofia Coppola, but it felt more like written by Sofia... she would of been 18 at that time, and it plays out like something an 18 year old amateur would write. Dull story, horrible acting and uninspired direction. I was just praying for the punishment to cease. It's all the more horrendous because it comes right after that great Scorsese short. I recommend skipping this one completely and moving on to Woody Allen's piece. (0.5/5)
Woody Allen's: ''Oedipus Wrecks'':
Funny and imaginative, but kinda disappointing. I initially thought it was going to be fantastic, with Woody exploring the life fact that while parents (or mothers in particular) can be a pain in the ass, when they disappear from your life, you're really going to miss them. But Woody didn't go for that. Instead he focuses on mothers only liking daughters-in-law that are similar to them? Eh. Great acting and soundtrack in this one, though. (4/5)
Overall, I'll have to give this a weighted score of 3/5 stars, but definitely see it for Scorsese's short and less enthusiastically, Woody's.
The first short film is entitled "Life Lessons," and is the most successful out of the three films. Nick Nolte stars as Lionel Dobie, an artist desperately in love with Paulette (Rosanna Arquette). On numerous occasions, he makes it clear that he would do anything for Paulette (except, of course, tell her whether or not he thinks she has any talent as an artist).
Expertly written, convincingly acted and, with Scorsese at the helm, masterfully directed, "Life Lessons" is the best contribution "New York Stories" has to offer as an intriguing character study of a grizzly middle aged artist seeking inspiration from his romance.
Sandwiched in between Scorsese and Allen's films (to help us forget about it) is Francis Ford Coppola's "Life Without Zoe." Disjointed and lacking purpose or any unifying themes, this film is easily the worst out of the three. The plot involves an Arab princess, a flutist and a spoiled girl. These three elements seem vastly different and Coppola does such a lackluster job of tying them all together that "Life Without Zoe" doesn't once rise above mediocrity.
Finally, Woody Allen's film "Oedipus Wrecks" involves lawyer Sheldon Mills and his strained relationship with his mother. The film broke the string of drama (and dramatic comedies) Allen had been releasing since this film is purely comedic. The humiliation Sheldon experiences whenever his mother walks into the room is broad and universal, appealing to the side of us that harbors resentment at the person who granted life to us, provided for us but for whatever reason, failed us in one way or another.
"Oedipus Wrecks" transforms from comically exaggerated reality to a fun fantasy. The film is much lighter than Scorsese's, but succeeds as a comedy that works.
The film is definitely worth a look for Scorsese fans and I expect Woody Allen fans naturally gravitate towards it. I wonder what Coppola thought upon seeing Scorsese and Allen's finished products. I assume he experienced the kind of panic I experienced in grade school when I finished a project and, looking around at my other classmates' works, felt grossly inadequate.