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Film / New York, New York

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"That was it! That was you proposal, get your coat on, put your shoes on, lets go, lets go, lets go, that was it!"

"The war was over, and the world was falling in love again."

A 1977 film by Martin Scorsese, New York, New York stars Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli. It is a love story between Jimmy, a saxophonist and Francine, a singer. He tries to pick her up on VJ Day because "The war's over and everyone's falling in love" but she rebuffs his advances, they run into each other, keep running into each other, eventually get together and form part of a band but their relationship slowly withers away as career and artistic dreams introduce tension in their relationship.

This film is known today for several reasons. One, for being a famous flop that to some signaled the point at which the young auteurs of the New Hollywood generation were getting out of control. Two, for being a musical that doesn't play with the usual expectations of the genre since it featured Method Acting, only one big song and dance number (which is filled with Stylistic Suck) and characters who are conventionally unlikable. Three for its famous title song by Kander and Ebb that would be covered by Frank Sinatra and become the unofficial anthem of the city, even if many don't know it's from this movie.

The film suffered from a Troubled Production, which generated poor publicity and it had the legendary misfortune to be released in the same week as Star Wars. It's generally not regarded as one of Scorsese's most notable films though it has become a minor Cult Classic. Scorsese for his part always regarded it as one of his personal favorites.

In 2023 the movie was loosely adapted into a Broadway musical with some new songs added and additional lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.


  • Ambition Is Evil: Well for lack of a better word than evil. But both Jimmy and Francine are too ambitious in their respective careers for them to really make their relationship work, and ultimately both decide that their art matters more to them than love and a stable family. They wish there could be another way but there isn't.
  • Amicable Exes: How Jimmy and Francine seem to be at the end. Jimmy still meets his child and he and Francine are friendly, sparks fly between them again but both decide not to see each other.
  • Arc Words: Major Chords, the cornerstone of Jimmy's philosophy, the name of his Jazz club and what Francine refers to before singing the song at the end.
  • Big Applesauce: Of course. Scorsese's Creator Provincialism is right at the title. In actual fact, the movie was shot in Los Angeles and made entirely on studio sets designed by Boris Leven. Scorsese wanted the film to look like the New York in Hollywood movies, cleaner, prettier and more romantic than the real place.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Jimmy for Francine
  • Costume Porn: As noted by Scorsese:
    I wanted to do a valentine to Hollywood.But update it, update it to the point where you have the look and feel of an old Hollywood film that grows in time, and each time, each date, it would look like a film of that period. It would look like a film of 1947, then it would look like afilm of 1950. This was done through sets, costumes, hair and makeup. Everything was exaggerated. Shoulder pads were an inch biiger inside, and the ties were made even wider. Giorgio Armani said that he studied the costumes and decided to make clothes, "like New York, New York".
    Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese: A Journey, Page 102-103
  • Deconstruction: Of Hollywood generally:
    • Most musicals which feature performers as characters tend to romanticize and sentimentalize show business (The Band Wagon or Singin' in the Rain). The climax has a big show number that magically solves all problems. New York, New York does away with easy conflict resolution, showing that there is always a new show and more creative tensions that will follow. Relationships for performers are hard and it involves a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
    • More importantly the film shows how hard relationships are when both the man and the woman have some amount of equality. Jimmy and Francine's marriage might have survived if one of them could give away but both of them are supremely talented and ambitious making the relationship hard. In the end, both of them achieve success but apart from each other.
  • "Double, Double" Title
  • Family Versus Career: The main theme of the film is the conflict between creative people who want to be great artists while still keeping a relationship. Jimmy believes in having "major chords" - Art, Success and Love but having all three means that Francine should compromise on her ambition and vice versa. In the end they part ways despite being in love with each other.
  • Genre Throwback: Part of a late 70s trend (cf, A New Hope), where many directors tried to revive the Old Hollywood musical for a new audience. It was a huge flop but one can argue that it paved the way for All That Jazz among others. Scorsese specifically said that it was meant to evoke not so much the MGM musical but the lesser known dramas about musicians, films like The Man I Love, Road House, Love Me or Leave Me, A Star is Born, Pete Kelly's Blues.
  • Grief Song: Francine's "But the World Goes 'Round"
    Somebody loses, and somebody wins
    And one day it's kicks
    And it's kicks in the shins
    But the planet spins
    And world goes round and round
  • Happy Ending: Thoroughly mocked in the eponymous "Happy Endings" number.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "IT IS CALM!"
  • Lighter and Softer: In contrast to the dark and gritty urban dramas of "early" Scorsese (like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver), he does a glossy, polished comedy. Of course it still ends on a bitter note.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: No matter how much two people love each other, their desires and ambitions will compete with each other. Especially if they are creative people, eventually one of them will give away. A relationship can be happy, fruitful and important but it isn't sufficient for it to last.
  • Mood Whiplash: A problem on its release because the contrast between the old fashioned sets redolent of 50s Hollywood clashes with the very modern acting styles of Robert De Niro and the film shifts tones abruptly.
  • The Oner: "But the World Goes 'Round" is shot in a single take.
  • Re-Cut: When the film was originally released, it had a running time of 155 minutes. The box-office failure of the film prompted United Artists to cut the film down to 136 minutes. It was then re-released in 1981 with the deleted scenes restored, including the lengthy musical number "Happy Endings", only a small portion of which had appeared in the original release. The total running time of the DVD edition is 163 minutes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jimmy gives Michael Powell as his alias to the hotel receptionist.
    • The film's title card has the same New York skyline as Raoul Walsh's The Man I Love and the song is covered by Liza Minnelli in the later part.
    • The film's opening section up to Jimmy and Francine's marriage is essentially a version of musical Road Trip Plot films like Pete Kelly's Blues and Road House, vignettes of bands travelling to different sections and playing songs.
    • The Happy Endings number is one for several musicals, chiefly The Band Wagon (directed by Vincente Minnelli, Liza's Dad), and the "Born in the Trunk" number from A Star Is Born (starring Judy Garland, Liza's Mom).
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: The nature of Jimmy and Francine's courtship and marriage.
  • Time Skip: The finale skips a few years later, showing Jimmy as a successful Jazz Club impresario and Francine as a successful singer.