Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Couple to Remember: New York, New York

It's Valentine's Day today, and no matter how silly or empty this day can be, it is what it is. A day established enough to remind us the need to portray love and affection at its best, or just fake it. You know what? It doesn't even matter. Everybody deserves a thought, a tacky gift or quality time with the person he shares his life with, even if it's not spontaneous or passionate. For some, being a couple is making an effort, such an effort -should it be like that or not? It's all a matter of taste, really. And luck.

Occasionally you prefer to make a huge effort to be with somebody, than leave him and find your inner peace and your inner void that comes along. To all those couples that struggled together, because being apart seemed unimaginable for a moment in time, to all those tense moments couples have to try and make it work, when it obviously doesn't, I want to dedicate this day and this post. Here comes a cinematic couple that falls under this peculiar category: Liza Minnelli and Robert de Niro shared some passionate kisses and caresses in New York, New York (1977), an almost-musical by Martin Scorsese that left the audiences aghast; not from awe or excitement, but rather from perplexion. Because New York, New York came right after Taxi Driver and is an homage to forties musicals -Scorsese's audience did not expect this genre to follow the weirdo Travis Bickle, but that's another story altogether. 

The film is one of a kind, definitely underrated and overlooked by its contemporary audience; colours, glamour, a very young and calliphonic Liza, an equally young and self-assured De Niro. They are both into music, jazzy stuff. He is a sax player, she is this well-groomed girl with the velvety voice. They don't even fall for each other, at first. He has a big ego, thus he's used to have any girl he wants. She has some self-esteem and she is less needy than the rest of the girls. So, she continuously sents him to hell. Until he mentions that major chord... 

Girls tend to like smart guys that try to conceal their sensitive, romantic souls; Minnelli as Francine Evans sees some hidden sensitivity in Jimmy - De Niro; some sensitivity that was not there. She falls for him, only after his erratic efforts to convince her. He tries so much for no other reason than his own big fat ego; he won't take no for an answer. And then, they're stuck. They like different styles of music, but they are bound to work together. They have different needs and expectations, but they have to make do with whatever their other half gives them -which sometimes is close to nothing.

They try and try. He pops up the question in the spur of the moment. They have an argument on the "how" and the "is that all" before she finally accepts. They are happy when they kiss, but unhappy when they don't. Because if they don't kiss, they clash. She stays pregnant to his child, whereas he was not ready to have a child. They break up after a terrible fight on the day she gives birth to their son.

New York, New York is an irregular, gritty trip to companionship, egos and aspirations. They both make it in the end -Francine attracts big audiences and he appeals to his own sophisticated niche market- but they stay apart. Sometimes, it's like that; you either have to chose life, or chose to choke to death from an egotastic/loving presence.

Songs like The Man I Love, And the World Goes Round and, naturally, New York, New York sung here by Liza -did you know it was originally composed for this film?- make Liza shine in her retro clothes and coiffure, her manicure and the whole shebang -she becomes charming even. It's only when she faces her love interest that she is manipulated and loses all her character. De Niro is once more here a sociopath, that's what he wants to be all along. As a character in the film puts it "he is a pain in the ass", arguing  over this and that and always insisting on having it his way. A horrible, unpleasant character, but I guess it's a deed to be that from an actor's point of view.

That couple didn't make it, but if you do make through this day, then watch the film with a feeling of success. Love is not here to last, no matter what they told you when you were very young.

AGENDA: New York, New York, 16/2/2012, 18.30, Cinematheque Luxembourg. More Info.

Enjoy the theme song by Liza Minelli:

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