Anyone who grew up in, lived in, or visited New York City has a distinct story about this island. People often forget that Manhattan is an island, and we all know the magic that takes place on these idle pieces of land. New York Stories (1989), directed by Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, and Woody Allen tells three distinct stories of life in New York City. The anthology was made 25 years ago yet the stories remain the same.
In Scorsese's Life Lessons, we meet an artist who is obsessed with his younger, naive, muse/assistant. Nick Nolte is at his best here: dark, brooding, charismatic, enraged, manipulative, and comedic all at once. Rosanna Arquette, whose work I’m still being introduced to, paints the picture of the girl searching for her voice, but still in need of the limelight. I’ve never been one to cherish youth, but I will say that I found a 31-year old Steve Buscemi, quite sexy. Yes, Steve Buscemi. Overall, the short is hypnotizing. Everything from the emotional soundtrack to the masterful camera technique left me wanting more but accepting its end.
Francis Coppola's, Life without Zoe, seemed like it was taken out of my childhood. While I wish I grew up in the penthouse of a Manhattan Hotel and ran around the city in taxis, the loneliness and isolation that the main character (Zoe) felt, was very familiar. Loneliness can bring on a vivid imagination in children (and some adults). This piece feels like a fairytale come true. Divorced parents (Giancarlo Giannini and Talia Shire) reunite, lavish parties filled with dance and music, and shopping in Europe with an estranged mother. I totally get it.
Oedipus Wrecks, written/directed/and starring Woody Allen, was done in the manner that all of Woody Allen’s films are made. It was thoughtful, quirky, self-deprecating, and sincere. Having written/directed/ and starred in a short film about mother-in-laws (inserting plug HERE), I connected especially to this piece. The stereotypical “Jewish mother” (Mae Questel in this case) is a figure I’ve always loved. From watching this film I’m pretty sure Mr. Allen didn't always feel the same way that I have, but like all art, he shows us his true feelings at the end.
In 2014, so many films and television shows try to capture the awe-inspiring magic that happens in New York City. I only hope that these stories can have the character and clarity that New York Stories has.