New York Stories showcases the talents of three of the modern American cinema’s foremost auteurs, Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola and Woody Allen. Scorsese’s is aimed at serious-minded adults, Coppola’s to children, and Allen’s to a more general public looking for laughs.
Scorsese’s Life Lessons gets things off to a pulsating start, as Nestor Almendros’ camera darts, swoops and circles around Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette as they face the end of an intense romantic entanglement. The leonine Nolte plays a an abstract painter unprepared for a major gallery opening three weeks away. Announcing that she’s had a fling, Arquette, Nolte’s lover and artistic protege, agrees to stay on in his loft as long as she no longer has to sleep with him.
At 33 minutes, Coppola’s Life without Zoe is the shortest of the three, but that is still not nearly short enough. Vignette is a wispy urban fairy tale about a 12-year-old girl who, because her parents are on the road most of the time, basically lives alone at the ritzy Sherry Netherland Hotel.
Happily, Woody Allen salvages matters rather nicely with Oed ipus Wrecks, about the Jewish mother syndrome. When Allen takes shiksa girlfriend Mia Farrow home for dinner, he winces as mama assails him for choosing a blonde with three kids. Allen’s fondest wish – that his mother just disappear – comes true when a magician literally loses her in the course of a trick.