Tuesday, June 13, 2006


A) LIFE LESSONS, Directed By Michael Scorsese
B) LIFE WITHOUT ZOE, Directed by Francis Coppola
C) OEPIDUS WRECKS, Directed by Woody Allen
1983, 119 Minutes
Source: New York Stories ( DVD)

All of the aforementioned films are a part of omnibus entitled New York Stories. The theme is the life and times of very different people living in New York. We will explore the three characters and what makes them unique to New York.

In the first story of this triptych, Nick Nolte plays an establised artist, Lionel Dobie, working on a huge piece of canvas with a bare bones beginning of an idea. He is interrupted by his agent played by Patrick O’Neal, who is encouraging him complete the work. Dobie explains that it will have to wait until he retrieves his incompetent girlfriend from the airport. Now, we have a clue into his state of mind.

His girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette) is furious at him for showing up at the airport after she left a message on his answering machine that she wantd to leave him. By ignoring her request, Dobie is giving Paulette (Arquette's character) a backhanded clue as to his concern, or lack thereof, for her feelings. He continues with this mental abuse by alternately professing his love for her with bursts of insanity, characterizing himself as a lion among men.

His canvas is changing like Dorian Gray’ picture, reflecting his feelings towards Paulette. Unbeknownst to him, she watches him as he unabashedlyt splashies vibrant reds, smiling yellows and serene blues. The canvas is alive with passion, with good cheer and with serenity. It’s the changing faces of Lionel Dobie.

At Lionel’s next show,s we discover that Paulette has left him as though he is a failure. An ardent young woman enthusiastically introduces herself as new to the area, an aspiring artist barely making ends meet He tentatively suggests that could hire her as an assistant. The position doesn't pay much, he explains, just room and board.

I have never seen a short, romantic film directed by Martin Scorsese. I expected to see shooting, gangsters, people lying dead in the street. Figuratively speaking, that is what we saw in this scenario. Egos, dreams, and expectation are instead being shot down and left lying in the streets. Things that life lessens.

In Francis Coppola’s A Life with Zoe, we see another side of New York. When I think of New York I think of fantastically wealthy people inhabiting the city. What one doesn’t realize is that these “people” were actual children at one time, like Zoe. Her father, Carlos Montez, is a famous flautist who serenaded her in her crib. Her mother, Charlotte Montez (played by Talia Shire), is the most beautiful author who jet sets all over the world.

Her dream life has attending an exclusive school with equally wealthy children. One of whom is a rich, friendless boy that Zoe encourages to imagine a similar fantasy life, such as her own. Imagination is available to all, friend will find YOU.

Her father and mother reappear to tell Zoe that they are getting a divorce. In typical Coppoola fashion, however, namely a happy ending, the divorce doesn’t take.

New York Stories’ device is as a dream told to pyscharist by patient, Sheldon Mills shortened from Millsteins, (Woody Allen) after his mother is dead. He introduces Sadie, his mother, to Lisa, his fiance (Mia Farrow) at a magic show that that would be a family-friendly venue. The magician selects Woody’s mom out of the crowd to assist him in a classis box trick. The trick fails and hilarity ensues.

For the next three days, in a frantic effort of searching for his mother by using a private investigator, he is totally distraught. He even employs the services of a medium, Treva Marks (Julie Kravitz) though, unbeknownst to him, she is truly an amateur. However, for every step backwards there is a step forward. His lagging libido has been re-energized by the absence of his mother’s constant carping and criticism. His sex life is back on track.

Instead, she appears three days later as a humongeous cloud in the sky, from which she lectures him in front of traffic, causing a huge jam in the middle of New York City, as if that never happens in New York City. She also talks to people in the street as though she was right there, producing pictures on demand of Woody as a child, whereupon the other pedestrians produce pictures of their children and now the sidewalks are jammed.

When he tells his mother’s face that his girlfriend has left him because she cannot handle the duress of his mother’s absence, his mother miraculously reappears in his living room. Also there is the medium, Treva Marks( Julie Kravitz) who has admitted this she doesn’t know what she is doing as far as the occult is concerned, but she can cook. She’s even offered left-overs to Woody to take home, since she realizes that he cannot do for himself. (His life has been sheltered and provided for by his mother.)

This section movie is very typical of Woody Allen in the 1980s. He is very self-effacing and self absorbed but he finds the humor in situations, even though somehow I always got the feeling that these were situations he created in his own mind. There is a very dark side to his humor that I like. I hadn’t seen a Woody Allen film in awhile, so this was a refreshing retrospective.

submitted by Debbie Zukas


ltpalm said...

Life Lessons is a truly affective short that doesn't act or feel like a short. From the very beginning, this piece jumps into a story line, but builds quite slowly and knowingly, purposely dragging the viewer along with promises of a twist ending. Yet, when I expected to get that classic short film twist, a few minutes into the film, the opening credits begin to roll! This reminded me of how Swing Blade began, except the opening teaser here is for a short film. Once the film begins, I felt as if the director was really flexing his know-how by employing slow motion, extreme close ups, reoccuring images, etc. There is careful attention to detail and images. Is this the auteur at work? I was also impressed with the way the diegetic music reflected mood even when the words of the songs weren't exactly appropriate. The filmmaker also foreshadows and captures inner thoughts beautifully simply by the combination of music and the way Nick Nolte's character strokes his paint brush. In other words, there is so much here and I feel as if this short is nicely done. The storyline, the characters, and the directing are all high quality, which, surprisingly, surprises me for a short.

Christine said...

Life Without Zoe

Zoe is a twelve-year-old girl living every kid’s dream in Manhattan. Her parents are always traveling, she lives in a hotel and she has a butler-housekeeper at her beck and call. Money? No problem, she can pick up a wad of cash in the hotel lobby every morning and take a cab to her private school. Zoe is spoiled, but she really isn’t a snob either.

The most interesting part of this movie, for me, is how these wealthy children assume adult-like mannerisms and responsibilities in everything they do from hailing a cab to
working on the school magazine.

Zoe and her classmates try to secure an interview with a new, especially wealthy student, Abu, who wears suits to school and has a private driver. As they sit around a table devising a plan to land the interview, they appear to be like 40-year-old professionals. We next cut to these girls crowded around Abu, holding an umbrella over him as he answers their questions. Zoe is in reporter mode, furiously scribbling answers and clarifying that they are NOT People Magazine.

The movie is cute and light, if not cheesy at points, but part of the exaggerated behavior of Zoe and her peers seems to be learned from …the parents! When her parents return unexpectedly, we see that they are in fact more like kids. Her mother wants Zoe’s advice on life, on love and Zoe scolds her for smoking again and seems upset that her parents are going to try and get back together.

The most interesting part of this film for me was the reversal of roles. The children dress and act like adults, though still clearly children, and the parents act more like children, dramatic and hungry for attention.

This film also felt like it was a more of a feature than a short film because it was more formulaic and predictable, and doesn't quite challenge us with the ambiguity of most short films.

Anonymous said...


About twelve years ago, I watch a danish short film (it was shown before "Stolen spring" or "Russian Pizza Blues"). The short tales the story of a man who take care of a pool. This man is wearing a diving bell. In this pool, there´s a gruop of women who practice sincronized swiming. The man is fall in love with one of this women, and in the end, he kidnapped her, and takes her to the bottom of the pool, where he lives.

I would apreciate if you could help me to find this short.


Gustavo (from Costa Rica, sorry for my english)