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New York, New York
Galina24 April 2006
The anthology that include three short films that take place in New York City was made by three great American directors, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola.

"Life Lessons" directed by Martin Scorsese, literally took my breath away - it made me want to rewatch all Scorsese's films (with the one exception, GONY, though). What a magnificent work - visually it is as powerful as the painting Nolte's Lionel was painting. Combining in one short film Procul Harum's "A whiter shade of pale" and Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" from "Turandot" was a stroke of genius. This film is an ode to the power of talent; it is about greatness and curse of the gift, not about love to the woman. The best scene of the film and I'd say one of the best ever made about the Artist's work is Nolte triumphantly painting his masterpiece - his love, desire, lust, cries, whispers, tears, and humiliations magically transform with every stroke of his brush into the immortal, triumphant, brilliant work of art. By the time the painting is finished, he would need a new source of inspiration and self-torture, and the cycle will repeat over again. Devilishly clever portrait of an Artist as Not a Young Man. 9.5/10

I loved Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" and I think it is very funny and touching. Looks like Allen has met mothers or grandmothers like Mrs. Millstein in real life and his little gem is his love-hate letter to them. In the end, mom always knows what is best for her little boy. Mae Questel and Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) were wonderful. Woody's face after his mom "disappears" and the scene when he practically makes love to the chicken drumstick are pure delight; also the commentary that New York is used to everything and readily accepts the crazy situation - it is so true. One of the best Allen's films I've seen lately - I am very glad that I finally saw it.

Larry David ("Seinfeld", "Curb Your Enthusiasm") plays the Theater Manager. It made me think if Estelle Costanza created by David and Mrs. Millstein (Woody's omnipresent mother) have a lot in common in making the lives of their sons miserable and smothering them with their merciless love? 9/10

Coppola's "Life Without Zoë" was much weaker than Scorsese's and Allan's stories and paled in comparison - this episode "from the lives of the reach and beautiful" was pretty and cute but you can skip it. 5/10
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Coppola segment drags down otherwise good movie
Daniel Karlsson31 March 2003
Three 40 minutes short films by three of the greatest American directors; Scorsese, Coppola and Allen. I personally like Scorsese's introducing segment the most, Life Lesson. Even if I personally is not a fan of Nick Nolte, the movie has depth and it's just as good as you would expect from a director like Scorsese. Unlike many other directors, Scorsese manages to capture sexual attraction, in this case felt by the main character (Nolte). Freshly photographed and good ending that makes you recall upon your own life. Not a masterpiece but indeed great.

Coppola's segment "Zoe" is a total disaster. It is beautifully filmed, but the acting and the story is far below good. Better fit for the children's hour on TV. I don't know if the story was supposed to be ironical, a satire of spoiled extremely rich kids on Manhattan, which could be the fact since there were some scenes where the young girl interacts with a homeless man. That could have been a good theme, if it was Coppola's intention, but no matter the case - it just don't work. It is silly and it doesn't feel satirical at all. Another idea is that it was supposed to be funny, a short comedy, however, neither does it work on that layer. It somewhat makes me lose my respect for the director.

Woody Allen's part however is a pleasant refresher after Coppola's borer. Very funny, typical Allen, good acting from Allen's side and good music.

Overall rating is a mere 6, dragged down by Coppola. Without his segment I would rate this movie an 8.
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So what's the problem?
blanche-225 November 2008
I'll step out of the loop here about "New York Stories," three tales of New York from 1989, directed by three formidable directors: Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. I happen to think all three films had something to offer, and the fact that the Zoe sequence is about a child does not for me make it the weakest segment.

I found the Scorcese segment starring Nick Nolte and Roseanna Arquette the most thought-provoking, the Zoe segment the most charming, and the Allen segment the wackiest. The first episode is about a tortured artist (Nolte) who expresses his sexual frustrations and problems with his young protégée (Arquette) in his work. She no longer sleeps with him and wants to quit New York and go home; he wants to kiss her foot and professes undying love for her. To Puccini's Nessun Dorma, he stares at his artwork and goes through a variety of emotions as he paints another masterpiece. This particular muse in the form of Arquette used up, one sees him at his art show connecting with another would-be artist/muse whose identity will also be lost in his genius.

The second sequence, directed by Coppola, is a take-off on the Eloise stories by Kay Thompson. This little girl's name is Zoe. Her father, Claudio Montez (Giancarlo Giannini), is a famous flautist who travels, and her mother (Talia Shire) is a photo journalist who travels. Zoe lives with a butler and her dog Vegas at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. She proves herself smarter than either parent in this charming film. My only question is why Giancarlo Giannini speaks Italian to his daughter when the name Claudio Montez is emphatically not Italian. Okay, it wasn't typical Coppola, but who said it had to be? The last one is pure Woody, Oedipus Wrecks, about a man with a nagging, critical mother who wants to marry a young woman (Mia Farrow) with children. He loves his mother, but he wishes she'd disappear. During a magic show, he gets his wish, when his mother goes into a magician's box and never comes out. Later she shows up in the sky telling him what to do, with the world as a witness. His girlfriend can't take it. He then goes to a psychic (Julie Kavner) who makes him a boiled chicken dinner. A complete delight.

Three different, interesting stories by three great directors.
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Could've been better, but still
MisterWhiplash25 March 2002
In New York Stories, three segments are shown back to back, and they are all engaging in their own ways however it's only 2/3 successful as a total motion picture. Martin Scorsese's Life Lessons is a good example of what caliber of work Scorsese had when he made those three student films in the 1960's. It is a film that has a lot of depth, but it is quite worth it for fans of the actors and those who could get interested in Richard Price's story.

Coppola, director of THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW makes Life Without Zoe here, a film that is 180 degrees out of whack from those two movies in that it tells the story of a little rich girl whose best friend is a doorman and revolves around a rich boy's birthday party. In a way, it almost could appeal to kids, but it's the wrong place to put in between a story of artists by Scorsese and a comedy of mother and son troubles by Allen.

Which brings me to the last short film, Oedipus Wrecks, where Woody plays a character whose mother suddenly out of the blue disappears. This is a good showing of what Woody can do in comedy without having to have a picture length presentation (not that he makes many bad films by the way).

So, New York Stories is worth checking out for Life Lessons and Oedipus Wrecks, and there could be an audience somewhere for Life Without Zoe, although the biggest flaw of the movie comes that neither one can connect at all outside of the fact that they all take place in New York and are made by New York directors- in short- fascinating and imperfect in some ways. B+
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Allen's was hilarious, Scorsese's was interesting, Coppola's was unnecessary
Lee Eisenberg14 May 2005
"New York Stories" tells three tales of the Big Apple. Martin Scorsese's "Life Lessons" shows artist Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) trying to assess his relationships with people, Francis Ford Coppola's "Life without Zoe" shows a very mature girl, and Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" is about Sheldon Mills (played by Allen himself), a man who quite literally cannot get away from his mother.

I have to say that Scorsese did a very good job looking at troubled relationships, and Allen shows how hard it is to have certain kinds of people as parents (of course he often shows that). But Coppola's segment was so dull that I choose not to even write about it. But don't worry; the movie is overall really good, and we should assume that it really sucks to be Allen's character, given what happens in that segment.
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Two out of three are great!
deadparrot_jhl27 March 2000
This film is quite fascinating-in parts. My best advice to anyone renting it is to sit back and thoroughly enjoy the first segment by Martin Scorsese ("Life Lessons")-although you may be sick of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by the end of it, or you may have a new reason to love it. Then, I suggest you fast forward through the painful middle story by Francis Ford Coppola. I really tried to like it, seeing as how this was the same man who brought us "The Godfather." Alas, even I couldn't sit through it. Then, watch Woody Allen's very funny "Oedipus Wrecks." This short film, like Albert Brooks' "Mother" will have you going, "My God, it's Mom!" A satisfying rent. Try to get the people at Blockbuster to knock fifty cents off the price for not watching the middle part.
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Two out of three ain't bad
maitlandst13 September 2003
**1/2 of****

Three completely different short stories told by three of Hollywood's most influential and profilic directors in the most exciting and mythical city on earth. Seems like a shoe in doesn't it? Well almost. Looking forward as I did to the Woody Allen piece "Oedipus Wrecks" the wait was worth it, but still somewhat unsatisfying. This featurette would've been a welcome change of pace for Woody at the time given that he hadn't made a flat-out silly comedy for a while and he manages to make good use of every moment. He has a great cast,(Kavner, Questral are particular standouts) and a genuinely strange premise to work with and the results are a riot, dare I say one of Woody's best. So what's so unsatisfying? As good as "Oedipus Wrecks" is , it still suffers because it has to follow Coppolla's god awful and charmless "Life Without Zoe." Seriously I had absolutely no clue what the hell was going on in this obnoxious, cutesy-poo clinker. Can anyone help me understand why Coppola thought anyone would like this? Sitting through "Zoe" is so emotionally draining that by the time you get to "Oedipus" you're too annoyed and confused to fully enjoy it. As a result Scorsese's "Life Lessons" comes off the best of the three. Nolte and Arquette are flawless and the intensity and friction between them make for an engaging if not distressingly tense 35 minutes.
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Good For An Anthology FIlm
jzappa20 February 2007
New York Stories is another anthology film that I was suckered into because of the credentials. Other anthology films that I've seen, like Four Rooms, have not been very good despite the amazing credentials. I haven't been a fan of most movies with more than one director, hence more than one vision thus many colliding like an orchestra playing unharmonious notes. New York Stories is satisfactory however, eve if its mood swings leave one feeling many different ways about it. You'll feel stimulated, yet strangely unfulfilled.

Martin Scorsese's segment, Life Lessons, is very melodramatic in that hardened, grungy way of his. Nolte gives a wonderful performance, very intense, and Arquette is very realistic and effective. Scorsese employs his usual machine gun multi-genre soundtrack and plunging, stylistically passionate and energetic cinematography. His segment says something very profound and important about the human characteristic of selfishness and how much more abundant it is in ourselves than we care to accept.

Then comes Francis Ford Coppola's segment, Life Without Zoe. Arg. The acting, despite the leniency one may generously give child actors, is awful. Heather McComb did in fact fill out very very nicely when she grew up, but that does not excuse her very scripted performance here. She's the least of the cast's problems, though. Everyone sounds like the salesmen on the used car commercials. The story is something quite silly. Perhaps it would be fine if it were its own film, but Coppola had to know that he was being teamed with Scorsese, his fellow creator of quintessential Mafia cinema, and Woody Allen, the prolific source of mature and sophisticated comedies about sex and relationships. Did he submit this segment for shock value? I guess so. Well, it worked. I don't understand why Coppola works with kids. His daughter Sophia, who at age 18 here co-wrote the script and designed the costumes, did in fact go on to become a fine director herself, but did he not notice his pattern after awhile? He makes The Conversation, the Godfather films, and Apocalypse Now, and we think he's found his niche. Then he starts making movies like this, following up with films like Jack with Robin Williams.

Woody Allen's segment saves the film. I suppose this is one way anthology movies are interesting. In a single feature-length narrative film, when it takes a plunge in the middle, it can't really be saved in the end, especially if it was as bad as Coppola's segment. In an anthology, if the middle of the movie is terrible, you still have the end to look forward to. This is the case in New York Stories, because Woody Allen's segment, Oedipus Wrecks, the final third of the movie, is hilarious. It's one of the funniest satires he's ever done of the Jewish Brooklynite's culture. It's goofy in a subtle way, and fascinatingly surreal the way a lot of Allen's best and most creative work is. Actually, Oedipus Wrecks is perhaps the only one of the three parts that actually clearly represents a hue of New York's culture. Scorsese's part didn't represent New York as much as it represented the emotional tempests of an artist and happened to take place in the meatpacking district. Coppola's mid-section represented the lives of wealthy children whose lives are so free that they live practically like very spoiled and gossipy adults, but to such an outlandish degree of family-oriented fantasy that it's not at all credible. Woody Allen firmly focuses upon his division of New York culture. And by the by, it's a very pleasant surprise to see a younger Larry David, pre-Seinfeld and pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm, in a bit role in Oedipus Wrecks.

Whatever was going through Coppola's mind, it's because of him that New York Stories can be described as a film in the shape of a circular saw. It's on one level, then takes a ninety- degree plunge to a different level, then again with the third segment it takes a ninety-degree ascension to the precise level it was at before.
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The Good, The Bad & The Funny!
Squrpleboy8 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
You can't really watch NEW YORK STORIES and comment on the

film as a whole, because, much like the three directors involved,

the three stories that make up the whole are so different and have

specific value in their own right. What you can do is applaud the

idea, the approach, and the coming together of three big New York

filmmakers to entertain and delight the viewer each in their unique


Segment one is "Life Lessons", starring Nick Nolte and Rosanna

Arquette, and directed by Martin Scorsese. It's a superbly acted

and tightly directed little film about a cantankerous and love-lorn

old abstract painter and his young female "assistant", the object of

his rejected affections. Nolte and Arquette play off each with great

chemistry (often explosive at that) and the pacing, cinematography

and storyline flow easily creating a real sense of the chaotic inner- psychosis behind artist beauty. {It was also really interesting to

see the large canvas that is the centre-piece of the film take shape

from nothing to a real work of admirable art by the story's end.} 8/ 10 on this one.

The second segment, "Life Without Zoe", by Francis Ford Coppola

is, to put it frankly, horrible! Unbelievably boring, and so poorly

acted that I can only imagine Coppola himself had fallen asleep

somewhere in pre-production and was awakened when the film

was released sometime the next year. Coppola has a knack for

casting young girls with no experience and/or talent in his films

(ie., his daughter in GODFATHER III) and Heather McComb as Zoe

is no exception. I actually stopped it 10 minutes in and fast- forwarded to the last segment. 1/10, truly pitiful in every regard.

The gem of the compilation (and saving grace) comes in the final

segment, Woody Allen's hilarious "Oedipus Wrecks". This was

laugh-out-loud funny. Allen plays a middle-aged lawyer who's life

is made unbearable by his doting/nagging Jewish mother, played

brilliantly by Mae Questel. Not only is this the best piece of the

three shorts that make up NEW YORK STORIES, but one of the

very best of Woody Allen's films, period. The tight interactive

delivery between characters that has become so trademark in

Allen's films is served up so deliciously again by the likes of Julie

Kavner, Mia Farrow, Larry David, and the aforementioned mother &

son team. Every facial expression sported by Woody is a gut- buster as well (special mention goes to Jessie Keosian, as his

deaf Aunt Ceil, for the same reason). Witty, biting, and with one of

THE oddest plot twists I've ever seen, "Oedipus Wrecks" is the

icing on the cake, and a great ending to this film conjunction. 9/10,

has to be seen for the "chicken drumstick love-scene" if nothing


Unfortunately, the film over-all is not an even delivery despite the

noble attempt. Scorsese and Allen shine with their spot-on stories

of intrinsic inhabitants of the Big Apple; Coppola just provides the

worm. I can only recommend portions of the film and as such can

only give it a 7/10 in good conscience. Enjoy what you can!
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3 Tastes in 1
Superblast17 May 2001
Life Lessons - I've probably seen it 10 times. You can refer to it as a 'short', but I get so wrapped up in it that I almost consider it to be a full-length movie. It's very close to perfect.

Life Without Zoe - Past comments have stated that this is the weakest of the three. I don't like to think of any of the stories as weak. I think the order of the stories is what is important. First is the tense art world drama, then the fairytale-like Zoe. Zoe doesn't have the punch of Life Lessons, but it's a relaxing follow-up. Enchanted flutes, princesses, sheiks, diamonds, parties, sunsets. I hate to use the word 'cute', but that's what it is - very cute, and that's not a bad thing in this case.

Oedipus Wrecks - Leaves the movie ending on a very outrageous and very funny note. This short is better than several of his movies (and I'm a HUGE Woody Allen fan).
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Loved it! Hated It! Loved It!
John Wayne Peel22 June 2004
"Life Lessons"

Nick Nolte plays a Leroy Neimann-style artist living in a New York City Loft and he picks up Arquette promising her "life lessons" Basically, he uses her and spits her out, but there's more to it than just that. Scorcese is his usual brilliant self and Nolte is in a perfectly realized part. Brilliant, though apparently many people didn't think so because they probably can't handle Martin Scorcese's tough style.

The Coppola segment.

The less said about this, the better. I would rather have brain surgery without an anesthetic than see this again.

"Oedipus Wrecks"

The "funny" Woody Allen returns. This is as reminiscent of the best of Allen's "funny films" as it is of his beautifully constructed New Yorker short stories. Mae Questel (the senile grandmother in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl) is his overbearing Jewish mother and him and to tell you anymore about it would ruin the exquisite comic writing and pacing for you. Needless to say, it is a wonderful comic fantasy wrapped in a witty, almost Freudian comic treatise. In other words, vintage Woody!

Thank God for video and DVD for you can bypass the painful parts like that rotten Coppola segment. I only wish I had that had that option when I saw this in its original theatrical run.

And to think that Sofia went on to continue to annoy people on the Silver Screen. For me, her talent is clearly lost in translation.
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Nod Goes to the Obsessions!!!
dataconflossmoor17 June 2004
Three stories, Scorcesse/Woody Allen/& Francis Ford Copola...Martin Scorcesse's dealt with cosmopolitan talent by way of artistic integrity, a piece of delicate Lalique is less fragile than the characters in this episode...Nick Nolte needs to come to grips with it..the simple fact is that HE'S HORNY!! Francis Ford Copola's segment dealt with the Park Ave elite being rather eccentric...A nice life, even divorce and forms of child neglect have a very intriguing spin to them, when money is relatively no object, and culture has limitless bounds!! Woody Allen's segment dealt with the occult, wishes were reality and reality was taking a sebaticle...The Jewish Mother is so loving, she is relentless in driving her son crazy!!...Believe me, this problem is a nice one to have...The best line in this segment being..."What do need to marry a blonde with four kids for, You're not an Astronaut"..What wins out in the end is the theme song to this segment..."I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad" AND THE WINNER IS: MARTIN SCORCESSE!!!

Scocesse's segment dealt with the demented concept that everything in life takes a back seat to an obsession...(For some people anyway) a sexual obsession,,,that is usually the favorite...The intensity of emmotions that Nolte and Arquette displayed are truly Life Lessons indeed...SO THE NOD GOES TO THE OBSESSION!!
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Allen Shines; Scorsese's Strident; Coppola's Piece Best Suited To ELOISE Fans, But Where's Brody?
I'd seen NEW YORK STORIES (NYS) before on cable, and I'd enjoyed the trilogy of short films by Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen. However, I hadn't been aware that a teenage Adrien Brody was supposed to be in it until I happened to look up his credits on the IMDb. Since he was listed in order of appearance as part of the cast of Coppola's segment LIFE WITHOUT ZOË, I kept a sharp eye out for young Brody in the school cafeteria scene -- at least it *looked* like it was supposed to be the cafeteria! The artistically dim lighting made things a little hard to see, which may be why I (and other Brody fans I know) could hardly find Brody at all. Judging by the order in which he's listed in the credits (as a character named "Mel"), Brody should've shown up in Zoë's school right after the know-it-all character Andrea (Alexandra Becker) shows up, just before the Sherry-Netherland robbery scene with Chris Elliott. Brody must have had dialogue at some point, or he wouldn't have been in the credits at all. However, I guess Coppola & Company pulled a THIN RED LINE on the adolescent Adrien, because I didn't see or hear him utter a single syllable. My only inkling that Boy Brody was in the scene at all was that when I looked very closely and pressed my DVD remote's "Slow" button, I thought I detected a familiar noble-nosed profile amongst the students stylishly silhouetted in the background. Oh, well, at least Brody got an early screen credit and presumably a paycheck out of the experience, as did another future Oscar-winner: Sofia Coppola, who co-wrote the script and designed the cute opening credit sequence. Nevertheless, I found LIFE WITHOUT ZOË entertaining even when the game of "Spot the Adrien" came a cropper, despite its reputation as the weakest of NYS's trio of vignettes. While it has its overly precious moments, it's basically an uncredited 'tween update of Kay Thompson's ELOISE AT THE PLAZA book series, one of my faves; think of this as ZOË AT THE SHERRY-NETHERLAND. With gorgeous New York locations, catchy songs by Kid Creole & the Coconuts, and a likable cast including young Heather McComb, Don Novello, Giancarlo Giannini, and Talia Shire, you could find worse ways to pass the time. As for the other entries, Scorsese's LIFE LESSONS, with a screenplay by Richard Price, is well-crafted and well-acted, though the temperamental, manipulative artist and assistant/muse/lover played, respectively, by Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette were so immature and strident they got on my nerves after a while. Hands down, my favorite of the 3 vignettes (and the fave of most folks who've seen NYS) was Allen's uproarious OEDIPUS WRECKS, the story of a Jewish mother (Mae Questel, the cutie who voiced Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, is a devious delight) whose well-meant domination of her henpecked son (Allen) gets out of hand when the audience participation portion of a magic show goes horribly yet hilariously awry. Mia Farrow and Julie Kavner provide able support; CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM fans should keep an eye out for Larry David in a brief bit as the magic show theater manager. Kavner's home-cooked chicken drumstick gets my vote for "Best Performance by an Inanimate Object"! :-)
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Marty's party
nunculus8 September 1999
Michael Powell claimed that LIFE LESSONS, Scorsese's contribution to this omnibus movie, was the most perfect short film of the sound era. I suspect he's right. This comedy about the convulsive relationship between a world-class painter (Nick Nolte) and his young assistant (Rosanne Arquette) is perfect in every detail; the sensibility shaping it seems to be possessed of a limitless power of invention. (It suggests the protean, sensual flights of fancy of late Picasso.)

Coppola's segment--LIFE WITHOUT ZOE--written by himself and his daughter Sofia, has a similar, but inverted, distinction: it may be the worst movie ever made by a major filmmaker. It may be a measure of its calamity that I don't think I've ever read a review of NEW YORK STORIES that didn't pass over it in silence. Woody Allen's segment, OEDIPUS WRECKS, is a one-joke affair, but it's not a bad joke, and he spins it well. After LIFE LESSONS, though, both are negligible.
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Mixed bag
conspracy-211 June 2000
This film is actually three short films, only connected by the fact that they take place in New York City. So I will comment on them individually.

The first short, 'Life Lessons', is directed by Martin Scorsese and is about Lionel Dobie, an artist (Nick Nolte) whos girlfriend Paulette (Rosanna Arquette) dumps him as a lover, yet stays in his atelier to live. Nolte, from the first scene, portrays a neurotic, 'typical' New York abstract painter, complete with discrete little temper tantrums about deadlines. He seems balanced and normal. But his painting is going nowhere. So he drives to the airport to pick up his girlfriend, and she discloses to him that she is leaving him and going home to her brother. She fell for a stand-up comedian (played by Steve Buschemi - his comedy scene is great because it's bad humour in a stunning setting) but he dumped her the day after. But, this fling flung her out of her comfortable relationship with Lionel (where we get the image that she was never happy anyway) and now she's going home. Lionel stays cooler as you would expect and convinces her to stay with him, no strings attached, for her sake. We believe him, at this stage.

Back at the atelier, however, the reality of this new relationship starts to shine through. Paulette doesn't like Lionel very much and has a real identity problem (you get the impression that she paints just because Lionel does), but Lionel appears more and more obsessed - not so much with Paulette herself, but with the company. He percieves Paulette as his property and becomes ragingly jealous when she brings guys home. Paulette, stuck in his atelier, teases him by dressing provocatively and asking him questions like 'Do you love me? - Then prove it by...'. Because of Paulette not being within his grasp, Lionel goes down the tubes. It's not love, in my opinion. It's pride.

But, as Lionel's real world fades and collapses, his painting grows and changes and comes to life. The moment his own life with Paulette ends, the life of his painting begins.

It's sort of a heavy story in the way that you really have to concentrate and suss out the character's motives. It's not light 'E.R.'-type drama, but it's a lot more fulfilling.

And so we are led into 'Life without Zoe', directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It's about a 12-year-old girl and her little life. If Martin Scorsese had stayed in the director's chair for this segment too, we could have had a re-run of 'Taxi Driver', where the 12-year old was a prostitute and the story was rough, but excellent. Instead, the 12-year-old is a rich Vada Sultenfuss, and the story is saccharine and empty. This middle film is destined to be the one people forget. For one thing, there is no narrative drive in the story as far as I can see - there is a robbery which is pretty pointless, there is a rich little boy who has a costume party, and there's the parents. While there are a few charming qualities - that the parents act childishly and their child mothers them; that the costume party is ludicrously lavish to the extent of having violinists and flambeed whatever at the baby's table - this segment is a children's movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Kids would get a kick out of seeing the wealth and possibilites of the kids and the fun of the party, but that's about it. Bad acting is acceptable in children - and abundant here - but it's also present in the adult performances. Some loser says after the robbery 'Wow if I could only hold on to that sense memory I'd be head of my acting class'. You've got a long way to go, buddy...

And so it's time for 'Oedipus Wrecks' by Woody Allen. This is the funny one. In fact it's so wonderfully absurd that I won't spoil it by telling you much about it. Only that Woody Allen surprisingly plays a neurotic New Yorker, and this time he is embarrased because his mother is always on his back and bothering him. The development of this story is just so strange and funny that I'll let you find out about it for yourself. It's not Woody at his best, but it's still funny.

Altogether, the segments I would rate 7,4,7 giving an average of 6.
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itamarscomix23 September 2011
New York Stories is so uneven that not only is it impossible to refer to it as one movie, it's impossible to treat it as a coherent anthology. Martin Scorsese's 'Life Lessons' is a interesting little drama piece, following After Hours and The King of Comedy in Marty's tackling less-obvious themes. The writing is uneven, but tremendous performances by Nolte and Arquette make it work. 4 stars.

Coppola's 'Life Without Zoe' is ridiculously bad on each and every level, from the acting and writing to the ludicrous theme song. Unlike many, I don't think the blame lies entirely with Sofia Coppola, Francis's directorial work is sub-par here. 1 star.

'Oedipus Wrecks' is, by itself, enough to make this essential viewing for Woody Allen fans at least, as it's classic Allen and possibly one of his finest works. Mae Questel (of Betty Boop and Popeye fame) is brilliant as Allen's mother. 5 stars.

So, the only fair way to rate New York Stories is with a completely objective average, which comes in at 3.33 stars. If at all possible, watch the first and third segment and completely skip the second, and you'll get an enjoyable and not-too-long double feature.
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Worth a look .
"New York Stories " it's a collection of three shorts made by Martin Scorsese ,Francis Ford Coppola ,and Woody Allen . The ending result ,even when it isn't the best work of those filmmakers , at least was very enjoyable to watch , and give us the chance their different styles . The first ,By Martin Scorsese"Life lessons " it's my favorite .The short story it's very well developed and the direction was quite good . It have nice music too .

The second "Life Without Zoe " by Francis Ford Coppola is the short who received more bad reviews . Actually isn't bad ,but the story was very different to the other two .Anyway ,I liked it too .

The third "Oedipus Wrecks " by Woody Allen , it's the funniest . The story it's very funny ,the script is clever and it is a satisfying ending for the trilogy . Although "New York Stories " isn't a perfect movie ,it is a worth watching .
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A STRONG DISSENT - Please look again at Life Without Zoe
leanneallan31 May 2006
There has been arguably the strongest outpouring of negative commentary in IMDb ever seen about the supposedly little afterthought of the New York Storiues triad - "Life without Zoe." Could I at least ask a reconsideration? This dear, tender piece, created as a light bon-bon, shows through the magical/real prism of the young eyes that (Ihope that) you all experienced looking at the world as a child. One object or friend takes one's fancy for some reason for a little while, then another. Pace and cinematic tempo must reflect that which may look a mish-mash to adult viewer's eyes.

The film basically just follows a bright, attentive young girl's life over a number of days,events being magnified or diminished just as they are as a girl records her diary highlights, or tells you the essential summary of what happened at school at the end of a day when you pick them up to take home. Seeing a drunk in the street may loom large, or the latest hip item of local kids clothing to be seen in.Many of these daily events don't necessarily have a further deep meaning, a filmistic solution or termination--the half-sculpted and wonky images of a day's life just end hanging,(or disappearing) into thin air.

Matt Groening recently commented (admiitedly speaking about the different genre of adult comedy)in a UK interview that he felt that US audiences needed to be hit with a sledgehammer to produce an adequate comic effect and he would sometimes love to produce comedy with the subtlety acceptable to overseas audiences. I don't want to inflame any transatlantic passions, but is it possible that US audiences are just not able to handle stories such as the running of a child's mind that doesn't necessarily have a beginning, a middle, or an end? What if you just sat in the film and took in the experience---no punchline, only feeling and seeing...

But young girls have bigger dreams and special loves---and there is (for many) nothing more special than the daughter's adoration, showoffiness,and special love for---their FATHER. It may extend to magnification of Dad to almost superhuman proportions---in this case, Dad is a classical flautist, and the dreaminess about her suave, charming, European, traveled father creates a delightful loving giant edifice of her father in her eyes, who creates special flute wandering leitmotifs to lull her to sleep, and informs her life with love. In reality, there is no fluff in here at all. I became (blessedly) a father to identical girl twins well after seeing this movie--and the relationship I have with my girls was perhaps more accurately portrayed here than in any other resonance or description I've encountered. The special tenderness of love for a father's daughter, and when young, this special inexplicable bond, mutually returned, is beyond 25 words or less--but Coppola has sensed this, no doubt especially helping to create this reciprocal magic by employing Sofia in the filmic role of the daughter--at this age and stage of Zoe's tender life, although her early cinematic ability is undoubted and has since been proved, I would judge being employed firstly as being the real daughter and distant secondly, as an actress.And in my view, he and she have both sensed this, and made a good filmic depiction of it. There is great depth of love mingled with total child's whimsy-quite a tough mix to encompass in a film short.

Although I hinted this paediatric Ulysses (a day in the life of...little girl X), as a child thinks, doesn't have beginnings, middles or ends, the adoration of young Zoe, mingled with all her other dreams, is crafted into an aesthetically stunning (?how real?) climax of her father's achievement as a musician when he is lead flautist at an orchestral performance in the open air at the foot of the Acropolis, commencing at dusk---just one of these stunning, life lasting images that Coppola has this ability to produce. Perfectly timed, with kids in the select audience, father stands up and plays--and the repertoire drifts as thrilled Sofia's mind hears him playing(at least to her ears)---the special children's music he plays to her when they are together putting her to sleep---my memory may be wrong, but I think it is is a rearrangement into multiple rather simple chord inversions and hence variations of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'---but to Sofia, it is a classical triumph- a peak moment in a girl's pride in her father and an orchestral triumph of course of the highest order. Dramatic irony taken right back to the home of it!

Give it a go and look at it again,if you liked the dream-time aspect of your own childhood, and especially all Dads of 7-12 yo girls, ESPECIALLY twins,and I expect, Grandads too, whose love for their grandchildren granted the gift of spare time and maybe reflection, often to me seem to even be more tender about the young than parents. It's not really a story--sorry, no big plot, no hard-hitting tag-line. It's drifting along that magical stream of consciousness of a child with parents that loom very large and blurred with an aesthetically beautiful finale at the Acrolopis with orchestra lit at dusk ----Mark Allan, Nedlands (Perth),Western Australia
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Nolte's Painter Interesting, Arquette a Doll, Woody Allen Funny, as Usual
writerasfilmcritic22 February 2006
I was at first skeptical when confronted with Nolte's stereotypical version of an artist in "Life Lessons." The guy is bearded, long-haired, unkempt, unwashed, and generally unappealing. Further, he puts on rock music to fuel his inspiration and cranks it up LOUD. Yet his off-beat interpretation grew on me. By the time the story was over, I was impressed. He did a more than credible job with the role, helped along by whomever was actually doing the painting. Just as interesting was his oft-pathetic interaction with Rosanna Arquette, who plays his delectable but cruel "assistant." She is jealous of his artistic success, fed up with his ambivalence toward her own work, and tired of his disturbing habits. I've seen her in a handful of roles and she never looked more attractive or did a better job, her "Joni Mitchell" sort of appeal at its most layered and alluring. Nolte, as the painter, was so hung up on her that he would do anything to keep her around. For example, he takes her to a party and watches helplessly as she leaves with a young upstart, returns with the guy to Nolte's own loft, and then spends the night with him right under her mentor's nose. Ooooo! That hadda hurt.

I agree with the other reviews that wondered what the heck the Coppola flick was doing in the middle of this otherwise interesting montage. It would've been far more appropriate as the after school movie on TV.

The Woody Allen flick, "Oedipus Wrecks," was quite amusing. Nothing much to say about it other than it was a fairly typical Woody Allen movie. I always wondered how, in real life, Mia Farrow could go from Frank Sinatra to Woody Allen, such different sorts of men, but that's another question entirely. Both Farrow and Allen deliver good performances here. I especially liked his zany antics with the psychic.
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Three Of The Best Directors Of Our Time
jedi_kaos10 March 2000
When Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, GoodFellas), Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Hannah And Her Sisters) join forces and make three separate short films all based around the same simple idea of living in New York, you know that original and interesting concepts will be seen.

Scorsese's "Life Lessons", the first of the three films, is probably also the best. Nick Nolte gives another excellent performance as the painter torn between his love of a woman and his love of his career. He portrays the role perfectly, surrounded by a talented co-stars. Scorsese's direction is again brilliant, showing he truly is one of the greats of contemporary cinema. (5/5)

Following Scorsese is Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather series. Unfortunately, following Scorsese is something even Coppola can't succeed at doing. His film is often pretentious and naive, at times even ludicrous. None of the performances are stand-out, and the direction is subpar knowing what Coppola is capable of (The Godfather and Part 2 being two of the most amazing films of all-time). But, at the same time the film isn't BAD. It just could have been much better. (2/5)

Woody Allen completes the package with another hilarious comedy, this time crammed into around 40 minutes. The story is a little over-the-top in parts but when directed and acted by Allen it works without fault. Taking such a simple thing as a mother's forceful nature and turning it into a successful short comedy is something only Allen could be so successful at doing. (4/5)

New York Stories is overall an excellent compilation, showcasing three of the best film directors of our time and indeed of ALL time. Scorsese and Allen put together excellent pieces and showed their talents to the world, unfortunately Coppola couldn't do the same.

What if New York Stories 2 was made today? Whose films would the sequel feature? I'd like to see Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider), and returns from Allen and Scorsese. A once-a-decade face-off between the three premier directors. Sounds good to me.
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An Allen Masterpiece
Col-35 February 2000
Forget about the Scorcese and Coppola, Woody Allen outshines them with Oedipus Wrecks. Sure, I guess "Life Lessons" would be an excellent short on its own, but next to the shining Allen glory of the Godzilla-like mother yelling, "Sheldon! Sheldon!" any serious film would seem pretentious. And they do.

Coppola's contribution, Life Without Zoe, is also notable for an 8-year old Arabian Elvis impersonator.
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Scorsese's episode is hypnotic cinema.
EAT Alex3 October 1999
New York Stories has three episodes, three little movies in it. One of them belongs to the masterpieces of the 80's. The film is called "Life Lessons", and it's directed by Martin Scorsese. I suggest you watch New York Stories because of Scorsese's fine achievement. The episode of Woody Allen represents that regular Woody we all know, and the piece of Francis Coppola is just plain boring and stupid. Scorseses picture is about a famous painter -played brilliantly by Nick Nolte-, and his source of inspiration -a beautiful woman. Life Lessons is an electric, sharp and funny film, you might call it art.
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Good idea but uneven execution
grantss3 October 2015
Good idea but uneven execution.

The concept: three of the greatest movie directors the world has known, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, are each given a 35-40 minute segment to make a mini-movie set in New York. The three segments are not connected in any way. The result is New York Stories.

The movie starts with Scorsese's segment, titled "Life Lessons". A famous artist, Lionel Dobie (played by Nick Nolte), is in love with the artist he is mentoring, Paulette (played by Rosanna Arquette). However, the feeling is not mutual...

Coppola's segment, "Life without Zoe", involves a young girl, Zoe (played by Heather McComb) and her privileged-yet-parentless life.

Woody Allen's segment, "Oedipus Wrecks", completes the movie. A NY lawyer, Sheldon Mills (played by Woody Allen), is constantly being embarrassed by his aging mother. Then one evening he takes her to a magic show and things take a turn for the bizarre...

The Scorsese contribution was interesting, with a nice twist at the end. Did seem to in circles occasionally, and didn't move forward at any great pace, but the interactions between the characters was engaging.

Coppola's segment was easily the worst of the three. Silly and pointless. It feels like it was made for kids, which, if it was, is starkly out of place with the clearly adult-orientated Scorsese and Allen portions. And even kids will probably find it silly and boring...

Woody Allen's piece was the pick of the bunch. It displays Allen's sublimely clever, dry wit plus adds a large dollop of the ridiculous. Very funny at times with a twist that is quite bizarre. Nice- bizarre, though it does border on the silly.

7/10s for the Allen and Scorsese portions, 3/10 for Coppola.
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An unconventional love letter to New York
Rodrigo Amaro31 December 2013
Three of the most important directors of all time unite here to produce a remarkable conjointed project offering an interesting rendition about the modern center of the world, the imponent New York. It offers plenty of visions, transitioning from a realistic urban tale to dreamy and out of the ordinary situations that takes place in a city where everything can and will happen. I guess it's fair to say this was one of the first films of its kind (with the city as main character), specially in American cinema who takes inspiration from many European classics of the 1960's with talented group of directors united for a common project, each with his view. Seeing "New York Stories" now is ten times more relevant now than what it was right when of its release. We can analyze the filmmakers evolution (the washed-up Coppola tale is more of a Sofia project than one directed by Francis); take a look at a New York distant from 9/11, a fresh, energic and positive place that seemed to open its arms to everyone. Nostalgia takes over.

"Life Lessons" (Martin Scorsese segment): Marty, the only who haven't wrote his own piece, made a small masterpiece with his short film, the longest of the segments. It's a true spinning wheel on the life of a famous painter (Nick Nolte) who welcomes back a estranged girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette), muse of his creations and according to him, love of his troubled life of countless failed marriages. Of all three, this has the most poignant story, and the visual master-craft of Scorsese is an ecstasy to the eyes with Nestor Almendros spectacular cinematography and the always effective editing of Thelma Schoonmaker, both helping to tell a story in a great sense. It tells plenty about relationships, the fragility, in's and out's and everything that comes with it, love vs. interest vs. passion. It's slightly melodramatic but it works.

"Life Without Zoe" (Francis Ford Coppola segment): a rich girl (Heather McComb) lives a perfect life among rich friends and dedicated parents (Talia Shire and Giancarlo Giannini) who are tying to reconcile with each other. Everyhing's so vivid, colorful and so sitcom-like that...nothing happens, really. The most indulgent and careless of the segments, this one seems more like a Sofia Coppola project (and she wrote it when she was 18) than a Francis film. Looking back now that she made tremendous films on similar hedonistic poor rich girl issues but with a little more depth, it only proves that some people can't change all that much. The city is OK here, and there's even time to flee to Greece.

"Oediphus Wrecks" (Woody Allen segment): what can I say? Allen is Allen, always a pleasure to watch. Here, he plays a man who suffers with the constant interference of his mother (Mae Questel, lovely) on his life and relationships until the day she mysteriously disappears during a magic act. Everything's fine, he's spending more time with his girlfriend (Mia Farrow) until the mother pops up in the New York sky, still bothering him but this time for everyone to see and laugh of him. His only hope: a psychic (Julie Kavner, brilliant) who'll try everything on her book to make the old lady go away. New York is extensively captured, perhaps the only segment that allowed the viewers to get a real sense of how magnificent the city is - the shot with the mother's floating head over the World Trade Center is beautifully and magically done.

Two good tales against one bad, the majority wins. Frankly, I prefer this movie than the current streaming of "NY, I Love You", "Paris, I Love You" (and now Rio will have its movie) that features a larger group of directors but only 4 or 5 can make decent and memorable pieces about those spectacular cities. I'd like to see new takes from the same directors, but this time Spike Lee instead of Coppola, and more focus on the other districts rather than only Manhattan. 10/10
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New York deserved better ...
ElMaruecan8221 May 2013
"New York Stories" are three films from three directors, and not the least of them: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. What a premise! And what a disappointment!

Maybe there should have been more than the setting to connect the stories; don't we expect a New York story from Allen anyway? They could have been set anywhere else without damaging the overall effect, but the question is why an anthology from the three greatest directors of their generation, sunk so lamentably into oblivion? And I guess the answer is obvious: Coppola's segment sucked. And it sucked big time. This is the first time I even use the word in a review, but I think it is for the right film. Scorsese and Allen's segments are no masterpieces, but "Life Without Zoe" is the worst film ever made by Coppola. In a nutshell, "New York Stories" failed because of Coppola.

Have a quick look on its Wikipedia's page and compare the lengths of the three summaries. It's quite telling that the one in the middle is so thin. While Scorsese and Allen at least intended to tell us stories, you know, with characters, conflicts, with seemingly plots for Cinematic Gods' sake, "Life Without Zoe" is a lifeless, dull and shockingly thin film, relating in a fairy-tale format the adventures of a rich little girl, with her friends, and one obscure Arab Prince who speaks Oxford' English and still struggle to understand some basic words. Nothing much happens, which is acceptable for a character study or an introspective film, but "Life Without Zoe" can get away with such alibis. The film illustrates more of Coppola's nepotism (Papa Carmine composed the score, little Sofia wrote it and sister Talia starred in it) than any hint of the immense talent he once had.

And "Life Lessons" is what "Life Without Zoe" should have been: it doesn't have a specific plot either, but it's lively, it doesn't have many characters but each one carries a strong emotional force allowing us to connect with it. It features Nick Nolte as an abstract painter, facing a mental block three weeks before the exhibition of his works, he must finish a giant canvas, certainly what has to become his masterpiece, but somewhere he lost the inspiration. The fuel instantly comes when he invites to his huge studio, Paulette, Rosanna Arquette as his former lover and student. He's obviously infatuated with her while she rejects him because she knows she doesn't get what she wants: a true opinion on her talent. The story is a fascinating tale of mental and emotional influences based on the mentor/disciple and lovers' relationships, and it is a visually dazzling film featuring the creative process in its most compelling form.

Made of sensual movements of brushes caressing the canvas and more energetic uses of burning colors, we follow Lionel's movements while Scorsese maintains an interesting suspense on the final result. He plunges us into the beauty of art and the way it drains its best inspirations from our inner demons. It looks flashy like "The Color of Money" but the film borrows more from "After Hours" (starring Rosanna Arquette too), through the depiction of the artistic New York, a world made of venal interest and sincere passion, where talentless people use sex to fulfills their ambitions, and true artists translate the lack of it into their work. For Lionel, it's a mix of revolt, anger, passion and some rock'n'roll and sixties music highlighting Marty's talent to choose the right music for the right scene. Art fills art, and in forty minutes, "Life Lessons" stands alone among the highlights of Marty's career.

Woody Allens' "Oedipus Wrecks" is not his riskiest or most revolutionary project, it's a comedy about a banker who can't stand the interferences of his typical Jewish mother, in his personal life and her constant disapproval of all his decisions, why would he marry a blonde woman with three kids from another marriage (Mia Farrow)? Why does he keep whining when she shows his baby pictures to random strangers? Given the film was made after the serious streak of "September" and "Another Woman", it's fun to see Allen getting back to his roots. And the gags work, climaxing with a formidable twist when the mother suddenly disappears after a magical trick (you'd recognize the Zitar theme from "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"). The way her disappearance is involved is smart, her reappearance is even more surprising, especially that it introduces Julie Kavner at her most hilarious.

What lacked in "Oedipus Wrecks" though is a satisfying ending; the last three minutes destroy the whole build-up. Surely, a screenplay with such a creative premise could have come up with a better conclusion, but it's like Allen was in a rush to finish the film, and threw away the most artificial and unsatisfying conclusion of his career. "Oedipus Wrecks" still benefits from the fact that it comes right after the horrendous "Life Without Zoe", and I suspect people would love any story coming after the plot less "Zoe". I wish "Zoe" wouldn't have existed if only to leave more room to the other films. I wish he could see Marty and Woody's films and look at "Zoe" and think "What have I done?" How can a man so capable of greatness like "The Godfather" let himself slipping that way? Hell, even his "Jack" is "The Godfather" compared to "Life Without Zoe". I even wonder if he didn't remove the last names in the opening credits out of shame.

I've got to hand it to Scorsese to outshine two great directors and make a truly original piece of art, I wish Allen could make a worthy ending to a very promising comedy. And I simply blame Coppola for having ruined a great project. My advice: skip the second segment, start with the third, finish with the first, and it'll be fine.
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