August 21, 2012

Gordon Willis' New York: THE PICK-UP ARTIST

Post-Coppola, post-Allen, Gordon Willis--already immortally associated with THE New York look--is picked up by the '80s. This time, it's James Toback, seeking the visual heft the lightweight story of an NY cad (Robert Downey, pre-Jr.!) so sorely needs. It's all Brat Pack desperately seeking some Gen X relevancy. At least the city looks good.

Final scenes at Atlantic City gives us a glimpse into the neon wasteland of young RDJ's babyfaced cruiser. Romantic and cynical, genuine and scheming, RDJ's/Toback's pick-up artist tries to strike out on his own, but can't quite escape the city's cultural baggage. (RDJ's character lives near Coney Island, just like Woody Allen does in Annie Hall; note the shot below that Willis cribbed from his earlier work in Manhattan.)

Willis does what he's hired to do--remind you of his earlier, better New York pictures. A self-conscious reflection of the city's evolving (devolving?) state. In the '70s, NYC was pitch-black; in Allen's nostalgic black & white, a city of classical beauty; in Toback's Reagen-era city is alternatively washed-out and alive with the colors and spaces of New York City's cinematic past. 

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know who Willis was when I saw this movie which I sometimes think I need to revisit.