nyny3.jpgIf you live in the New York metropolitan area, or otherwise have access to PBS 13, I insist that you stay home tonight and watch New York, New York,Martin Scorsese's three-hour musical debacle starring Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro - one of the great, mythic ego trips of post-Classical Hollywood Cinema. DeNiro's a hotheaded con-man/saxophonist; Minnelli's the put-upon vocalist who plays with him and loves him - but the plot doesn't really matter. New York, New York is an experiment in unbridled, spectacle-driven excess.

After the success of Taxi Driver, Hollywood at large was ready to give Scorsese and DeNiro a free ride to do whatever they liked. What Scorsese liked was Minnelli, who sat at the nexus of the Old Hollywood Musical (as daughter of Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland) and the New Hollywood sensibility (as an Oscar winner for Cabaret). The two embarked on the kind of manic on-set affair that never fails to cloud judgement. Meanwhile, United Artists was footing any kind of bill Scorsese could run up, as the director proceeded to create extended, over-the-top, non-narrative, Minnelli-esque musical numbers, and re-create New York in meticulous mid-century MGM style on a studio soundstage - all without any kind of intervention. Liza was styled like the 1940s version of her mother, and turned in a performance that seems less like "acting" than "resurrection". Add to all this DeNiro's cartoonishly violent man-child musician, and the resulting product is both spectacular and disastrous.

New York, New York, airs tonight at 9pm on PBS 13 in New York. It's also available on DVD.

categories Cinematical