New York Stories

New York Stories is a 1989 American anthology film; it consists of three shorts with the central theme being New York City.

New York Stories
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWoody Allen
Francis Ford Coppola
Martin Scorsese
Produced byBarbara De Fina
Fred Fuchs
Robert Greenhut
Charles H. Joffe
Jack Rollins
Fred Roos
Written byWoody Allen
Francis Ford Coppola
Sofia Coppola
Richard Price
Music byKid Creole
Carmine Coppola
CinematographySven Nykvist
Vittorio Storaro
Néstor Almendros
Edited bySusan E. Morse
Barry Malkin
Thelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • March 10, 1989 (1989-03-10)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$10.7 million

The first is Life Lessons, directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Richard Price and starring Nick Nolte. The second is Life Without Zoë, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola with his daughter, Sofia Coppola. The last is Oedipus Wrecks, directed, written by and starring Woody Allen. In foreign theatrical releases, the order of the three films was altered, Coppola’s being first, followed by Allen’s, and finishing with Scorsese’s.

The film was screened out of competition at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


Life Lessons

Lionel Dobie, an acclaimed abstract artist who finds himself unable to paint during the days before a scheduled gallery exhibition of his new work. Paulette is Lionel's assistant and former lover. Lionel is still infatuated with her, but Paulette wants only his tutelage, which makes things difficult since they live in the same studio-loft. Paulette dates other people, including a performance artist and a painter.

These deliberate provocations on Paulette's part make Lionel insanely jealous—and fuel his creativity. Lionel and Paulette, it becomes clear, have been using each other: Lionel using her sexually, Paulette using him as a means of entry into the higher spheres of the New York social and art scene. Paulette wants to give up and go home to her parents but Lionel persuades her to stay because New York is where a painter needs to be.

Lionel pours his anxiety and repressed passion into his work. Paintings around the studio show visual metaphors from relations past: stormy skies, burning bridges, and tormented clowns. Lionel realizes that he needs the emotional turmoil of his destructive relationships in order to fuel his art. At the art exhibit, Lionel meets another attractive young woman, a struggling painter. He persuades her to become his assistant and potentially his lover, beginning the cycle anew.

Life Without Zoë

Zoë is a schoolgirl who lives in a luxury hotel. She helps return to an Arab princess a valuable piece of jewelry that the princess had given to Zoë's father and had been subsequently stolen and recovered. Zoë tries to reconcile her divorced mother, a photographer, and father, a flautist.

Oedipus Wrecks

New York lawyer Sheldon Mills has problems with his overly critical mother Sadie Millstein. Sheldon complains constantly to his therapist about her, wishing aloud that she would just disappear. Sheldon takes his shiksa fiancée, Lisa, to meet his mother, who immediately embarrasses him. The three, as well as Lisa's children from a previous marriage, go to a magic show. His mother is invited on stage to be a part of the magician's act. She is put inside a box that has swords stuck through it and she disappears, just as she is supposed to, but then she never reappears.

Although he is furious at first, this development turns out to be great for Sheldon because, with her out of his life, he can finally relax. But soon, to his horror, his mother reappears in the sky over New York City. She begins to annoy Sheldon and Lisa (with the whole city now watching) by constantly talking to strangers about his most embarrassing moments. This puts a strain on his relationship with Lisa, who leaves him. Sheldon is persuaded by his psychiatrist to see a psychic, Treva, to try to get his mother back to reality. Treva's experiments fail, but Sheldon falls for her. When he introduces Treva to his mother, she approves and comes back to Earth.


Life Lessons

Life Without Zoë

Oedipus Wrecks


Box office

New York Stories opened on March 3, 1989, earning $432,337 in 12 theaters over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $10,763,469 domestically playing in 514 theaters.[2]

Critical response

New York Stories currently holds a 74% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 23 reviews.[3]

Allen and Scorsese's segments of the film have generally been praised. However, Hal Hinson, writing in The Washington Post felt that Coppola's segment was "by far the director's worst work yet."[4] Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars, saying "New York Stories consists of three films, one good, one bad, one disappointing." He further explained, "Of the three films, the only really successful one is Life Lessons, the Scorsese story of a middle-age painter and his young, discontented girlfriend. The Coppola, an updated version of the story of Eloise, the little girl who lived in the Plaza Hotel, is surprisingly thin and unfocused. And the Allen, about a 50-year-old man still dominated by his mother, starts well but then takes a wrong turn about halfway through."[5]


  1. "Festival de Cannes: New York Stories". Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  2. "Box Office Information for New York Stories". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
  3. New York Stories at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. Hinson, Hal (March 3, 1989). "New York Stories". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  5. Ebert, Roger (March 3, 1989). "New York Stories". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
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