New York Stories is a compilation film where Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen made short films somehow featuring New York. The three directors did not collaborate with one another and there are no other links between the films beside what was already mentioned. I’ve seen a ton of these compilation film films whether they be horror (Creepshow, Trick R Treat), stories about love, or in this case stories about a place, and most seem to play the same way for me. There is one that is good, one that is alright, and one that is shite. It really doesn’t matter what stars or directors you throw in that’s just how I feel about it and New York Stories is no different.
The first is Scorsese’s which turns out to be the alright one. The film is about Lionel (Nick Nolte) who is one of the biggest painters in the world who is struggling to finish work for an upcoming art show. He is in a tumultuous relationship with his protege played by Patricia Arquette. Lionel is pining after her but she seems to absolutely loathe him at this point. Lionel’s passion also seems to be feeding into the passion of his paintings. I certainly found “Life Lessons“ the most intriguing of the bunch as Scorsese is being more adventerous with the opportunity. This is not a simple fluffy story as one you would find in say Paris J’Taime. These are some heavy themes that Scorsese has kind of flirted with before in say New York, New York. Even in the shortened scope of 45 or so minutes I found myself getting restless especially since both main characters are rather unlikable. It is one I enjoyed on a technical and thematic level than with anything else.
The next is Coppola’s Life Without Zoe which is the bad one. The thing is this film isn’t bad like it made me angry, it was bad in that I did not know what the point of any of it was. The film is about Zoe who is kind of like the 12 year old girl version of Ferris Bueller I guess. She is an upper class girl living in New York City for which the whole world revolves around her. There is a strange plot about Zoe helping her dad from being killed by a jealous lover by sneaking a diamond back to a princess and believe me when I say nothing I describe means anything to the tone or relavance to anything. Stuff happens and then it ends. I guess you could say it would be “cute“ for an audience of 12 year olds which I guess has a little to do by the co-writing by Sofia Coppola. But cute just don’t cut it compared to the other work in this movie.
Finally we have Oedipus Wrecks directed by Woody Allen and by process of elimination you have figured out that it is the good one. Woody plays it doesn’t matter so let’s just call him Woody. Woody doesn’t like his mother and how he embarasses him in front of his friends and girlfriends. They go to a magic show and during the act, Woody’s mother disappears. Woody thinks his problems are over until she shows up as a gigantic face superimposed over the New York skyline and she can talk to anyone. Given the marathon of Allen films for me and of this single movie in particular, it was nice to have Woody plain have fun for a little bit. Allen is known for having a drawer full of comedy ideas and many are not good enough to fill out a full length movie so it is probably the perfect setting to have a mini-movie to get the most out of the joke. It comes in, tells the story it needs to tell, tells the best jokes it can, and gets off the stage. That works just fine for me.
Would I recommend New York Stories on the whole? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. If you did I would recommend outright skipping Life Without Zoe. I have read numerous reviews and I have yet to find anyone who really likes it. At best, people tolerate it. However Life Lessons and Oedipus Wrecks are interesting enough that if you love both directors I think it would be worth your while to check out on a slow day.