New York Stories (1989)

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Released 3-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 119:21 (Case: 75)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:14) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Francis Ford Coppola
Martin Scorsese

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Woody Allen
Marvin Chatinover
Mae Questel
Mia Farrow
Molly Regan
Ira Wheeler
Joan Bud
Jessie Keosian
Michael Rizzo
George Schindler
Bridgit Ryan
Larry David
Paul Herman
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Carmine Coppola
Kid Creole

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    New York Stories is a collection of three short stories, set within the context of the Big Apple, directed by three famous film directors whose work has been linked to the city: Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola and Woody Allen.

    Scorsese directs a story called Life Lessons. Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) is a painter who is struggling to find inspiration to complete a set of paintings for an upcoming exhibition of his work. His assistant, Paulette (Rosanna Arquette), has recently left him but has now returned. She can't stand him, but desperately seeks his opinion on whether she has enough talent to be an artist. He in turn loves her, but can't bring himself to admit it. Steve Buscemi plays a cameo role as a stand-up comic performing in an abandoned subway station.

    The second story, entitled Life Without Zoe, is directed by Coppola. Zoe (Heather McComb) is a little girl who lives in a room at the famous Sherry Netherland Hotel (I once stayed one night in this beautiful hotel, and you really don't want to know what the daily rate is!) with the family butler Hector (Don Novello). Her parents are separated and visit her occasionally. Her father Claudio (Giancarlo Giannini) is a world famous classical flautist, her mother Charlotte (Talia Shire) is a beautiful woman who travels a lot. Zoe attends an exclusive private school attended by the son of the richest person in the world. The beautiful Princess Soraya (Carole Bouquet) has lost one diamond earring, which just happens to be in the possession of Claudio through an accident of fate. He is in trouble if the police finds out he's got it, but Zoe discovers a unique way of returning it to the Princess during a birthday party.

    The final story is Oedipus Wrecks by Woody Allen. He plays Sheldon, a middle-aged lawyer who is constantly being nagged and dominated by his mother (Mae Questel). She continually embarrasses him in front of his friends, work colleagues and even his fiancée Lisa (Mia Farrow). He confides to his psychiatrist (Marvin Chatinover) that he wishes he could find a way to get rid of his mother from his life. One day, he takes his mother to a magic show. She is chosen to "assist" in a magic act involving being enclosed in a box and then skewered with swords. Of course, she "disappears": literally, not magically. When the act finishes, she is nowhere to be found. Is this Sheldon's dream come true? Well, yes and no ...

    The concept of a collection of short stories featuring New York as a backdrop is interesting, although the rather different tone and character of each story makes it quite difficult to watch them in a row. I think the stories would have been better if the viewing was spread over three nights.

    Having said that, I noticed a connection across all three stories, different though they may seem on the surface. All three stories are essentially fantasies.

    Life Lessons is about two people each with their fantasies: Lionel fantasises that he still may yet convince Paulette to love him, and Paulette fantasises that she actually has the talent to be a good artist.

    Life Without Zoe is really a fairy tale: a child's fantasy of a New York full of fantastic and wonderful people, and yet with the occasional bogeyman (the hotel robbers and the street tramp), set in quintessential New York locations such as the Sherry Netherland Hotel, Central Park and the Russian Tea House.

    Finally, Oedipus Wrecks details a man's fantasy of wishing his mother would just disappear, or go to heaven, or something. His fantasy comes true, but not the way he expected.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is in full frame/open matte. The intended aspect ratio is 1.85:1, based on a 35mm film source.

    I wondered about the decision to present this film open matte rather than masked to its intended aspect ratio, but I can see some wisdom in the decision.

    The first story (Life Lessons) is shot using very tight framing, and presenting it open matte definitely makes it less claustrophobic. The second story (Life Without Zoe) however, could benefit from being masked. The third story (Oedipus Wrecks) could be presented either way - I suspect Woody Allen's cinematographer deliberately shot the film so that it looks okay both ways.

    The film source appears relatively clean and in good condition, considering the age of the film. I did not notice any compression artefacts.

    Detail levels are acceptable, and colour saturation is good. There is a touch of graininess, but never to the point of distraction.

    The various oil colours on Lionel's palette during Life Lessons look really vivid and rich.

    Many of the outdoor scenes in Life Without Zoe are presented with an orange cast or afterglow, reminiscent of New York on an autumn morning. I'm sure this is an intended effect by the filmmaker.

    Oedipus Wrecks presents a rather gritty view of New York City, typical of many Woody Allen films.

    There are quite a few subtitle tracks: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and Spanish Titling. Both English subtitle tracks appear very similar. The former appears to be a little bit more accurate, whilst the latter seems to be slightly better formatted. Both tracks transcribe lyrics to background songs as well as dialogue.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs in Chapter 6 at 65:14. It occurs at the end of a scene during a natural pause, so should be reasonably unobtrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks on the disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Both soundtracks are in mono, so if you are after a surround sound feast, grab an action movie instead. Fortunately, all three stories are dialogue focused, although it would have been nice to hear the background music in stereo.

    The quality of the audio track is reasonable. The soundtrack appears to be taken from magnetic tape rather than the optical print, since I can hear some "phasing" of the high frequencies due to tape head misalignment.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear, and there were no issues with audio synchronization.

    Life Lessons features background music that consists of various excepts from pop music: A Whiter Shade of Pale, by Procol Harum, Politician, by Cream, Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan plus Nessun Dorma from the opera Turandot by Puccini.

    Life Without Zoe features music by Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

    Oedipus Wrecks is typical of Woody Allen "New York" films, featuring music performed by the likes of Bernie Leighton, Benny Goodman, Liberace, and Wilbur de Paris.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Having "insulted" us with a full frame transfer, and two mono audio tracks, the DVD authors are determined to ensure that the trend of making the disc appear as unattractive to prospective purchasers as possible is continued.

    There are no extras, and the film is presented in full frame, so why bother making the menus 16x9 enhanced? They are static, but available in English and Spanish.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Both Region 1 and 4 have nothing in the way of extras. Region 4 does have the benefit of some foreign language subtitle tracks, but that is all.


    New York Stories is a collection of three short films featuring New York City as a backdrop, directed by three famous "New York" film directors: Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, and Woody Allen.

    The full frame video transfer is acceptable.

    The mono audio transfer is acceptable.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Friday, February 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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Comments (Add)
mono in 1989? -