• Liza Minnelli is a massive star in the 70’s after Cabaret (1972) and a major talent—but she’s also the daughter of Vincent Minnelli and the film here, with the beautiful artifice of the production design is a nod to that Hollywood era. The narrative/content however, is very 1970’s—raw and typical of Scorsese and De Niro’s work on borderline sociopath characters with obsessive or domineering (Raging Bull) tendencies—Scorsese himself when talking about the film talks about the “artifice and truth”  
  • But as per usual, Scorsese was ahead of his time, incorporating freeform East Coast film acting with the opulent fakery of the classic studio production, complete with giant sets, musical numbers and a cast of thousands. It’s also the movie that gave Sinatra and the big apple its signature tune, the title song astonishingly overlooked in the Best Song Oscar category.” – Damon Wise, Empire
  • Dp is Laszlo Kovacs – the only time these two worked together
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Some of the prolonged improvisation is tough—it’s wonderful acting- De Niro is bringing it here and Liza is, sharp, quick and funny and up to the challenge as a partner—but in many of the scenes we’re not looking at much — for instance, in the 20 minute opening of the V-J day there’s a good 10 minutes of just De Niro trying to pick-up Liza
  • V-Jay day—20 minute set piece scene- gorgeous crane shot along the New York street. Gone With the Wind-like size with the extras— great suits, music, confetti
V-Jay day—20 minute set piece scene- gorgeous crane shot along the New York street then into the club– Gone With the Wind-like size with the extras— great suits, music, confetti
  • Some wipe transitions which is a wink to the era
  • Funny—she says “A gentleman would leave me alone” and he says “but I’m not a gentleman” and to her credit she says “Even a louse would go away”. Haha. He says “maybe next war”—really good
The fake woods studio backlot backdrop is handsome- reminds me of Joshua Logan’s Camelot
  • Pink neons pouring in from the street signs though visually this isn’t on par quite with Francis Coppola’s One From the Heart which I think actually has a lot in in common
  • The film riffs on A Star Is Born for sure—and I think is clearly an influence on Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Stardom and dueling ambition in a relationship. Liza’s mother, Judy Garland, is the star of the best version of A Star Is Born (not directed by Minnelli but Cukor)
  • A marvel of production design—purple bed, green paint- very expressionistic—the Harlem Club sequences – a yellow hall with purple stairs, the Up-Club has the neon red. It’s a breathtaking set piece. Peter Greenaway like expressionism and construction. Mesmerizing visuals with great acting in the foreground
expressionistic—the Harlem Club sequences – a yellow hall with purple stairs,
  • It’s typical Scorsese—which is to say it’s dazzling camerawork- very active
  • Geoff Andrew- “Time Out”– Scorsese’s tribute/parody/critique of the MGM musical is a razor-sharp dissection of the conventions of both meeting-cute romances and rags-to-riches biopics.
  • I could not find a screengrab but there’s a jaw-dropping shot as De Niro is being physically removed from the Up Club. The bouncers drag him through a door entirely filled with lighting and he’s kicking them out as he’s dragged. Stunning
  • De Niro is fabulous to watch here- dangerous– he’s created such an indelible character
  • After the Up Club there’s a shot at night, of a billboard with De Niro right there playing his sax. It’s gorgeous. It’s an incredible 10 minutes of screen time
  • I think visually it has a lot in common with The Aviator—production design mastery, period film
  • I see the neons influencing everything from Dick Tracy from Warren Beatty to Spike Lee (both come after) while the relationship between the two lovers has a lot in common with Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage or a Cassavetes film (both earlier).  I can also see parts of it in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (after) and Before Midnight (after) from Linklater
  • As a mentioned it’s an interesting pairing with La La Land. It’s harsher—but she ascends to stardom and he owns a Jazz club (the beautiful black and white “Major Chord” club) at the end
  • For “But the World Goes ‘Round” song Scorsese just stands out of the way and lets the talent of Liza take over
  • The title number—which De Niro had a hand in creating (he rejected a previous submission from the writers which is just crazy) is fantastic.
Unlike the “But the World Goes ‘Round” (where he leaves her alone)– Scorsese directs the hell out of the title song sequence- great imagery here
  • Impressive split diopter shot at the end as she looks in the mirror
Impressive split diopter shot at the end as she looks in the mirror
  • The ending is excellent. He calls. She sees the exit sign. We cross cut the two and she doesn’t come out. The street could be from Singin’ in the Rain
  • The movie within the movie- which Liza stars in, is an fascinating subtext (if you can stick with it because there’s a long flash forward within that)—it’s called “Happy Ending”
  • HR