Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nick Nolte, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Heather McComb, Talia Shire, Giancarlo Giannini, Woody Allen, Mae Questel, Mia Farrow, Julie Kavner
Written by: Richard Price, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola
Directed by: Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 124
Date: 03/01/1989

New York Stories (1989)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Triple Threat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This three-part anthology was a big deal to film fans in 1989, offering three new short films by three of the greatest directors in the world, but only Martin Scorsese's Life Lessons was really any good. Telling the story of a ramshackle artist (Nick Nolte) and his hot and cold relationship with a beautiful protégée (Rosanna Arquette), it's nervous and suspicious, zooming in on faces during discussions and roving all over the artist's spacious studio as he slathers paint, dribbles a basketball, and listens to Procol Harum. It's as vicious and as alive as many of Scorsese's best films. Francis Ford Coppola's Life Without Zoe is beautiful to look at, with its cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, and it's of interest today because it marks the screenwriting debut of Francis's daughter Sofia, who would go on to become one of the finest directors of the 21st century. However, the script is a bit too interior, and Sofia hadn't quite learned how to make her characters feel more human; it comes across as a precious picture of the spoiled and rich. Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks is sadly a classic case of one joke being stretched too far, but it does offer a silly, fun performance by the legendary Mae Questel, voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray in 2019, with no extras.

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