Opens wondrously with the voice over, pop soundtrack, and the triple- editing technique (same image zoomed in with short ellipsis) that Scorsese would keep doing for the next 40 years
The rock/pop soundtrack is really wall to wall and has some highlights- but the film, in general, cannot keep up the pace Scorsese sets in the first 15-20 minutes
I think the graduate and roeg’s performance are sure rock/pop influencers on scorsese though I’ve never read it before- I’m sure easy rider is there as well
The film is, in many ways, the anti-godfather. It’s gritty, shows the streets- it’s a great way to contrast not only the two brilliant films, their respective auteurs, but also the drastically different ways they use de niro here in 1973 and in godfather II in 1974
Keitel is superb here- he’s often overlooked for the flashier de niro role but he shouldn’t
The film is an important landmark in the American new wave of the 1970’s but perhaps not as polished as the 400 blows and breathless from godard and Truffaut
The “rubber biscuit” song with reverse POV is absolutely stunning. Amazing imagery and innovation
Early role for David Carradine as the drunk on the bar who gets shot
Some sloppy day switching to night continuity
Certainly you can see the corman influence from the clip of tomb of ligeia and the ford/searchers influence in that clip as well
Scorsese’s 3rd feature and it’s a major breakthrough- a masterpiece
Announces the career of a truly original voice in world cinema
“one of the best American films of the decade” – Time Out
“No matter how bleak the milieu, no matter how heartbreaking the narrative, some films are so thoroughly, beautifully realized they have a kind of tonic effect that has no relation to the subject matter” – camby from the NYT
“This marriage of indelible imagery with electric, seemingly incongruous pop songs wouldn’t be bettered until, well, the next time Scorsese decided to do it”- Simon Miraudo— Quickflix
The use of slow-motion tracking shots a revelation—wall to wall soundtrack (this also doesn’t have someone doing the original score), just hanging out very much from Fellini’s I Vitelloni and violence
At the time, and for decades, I think De Niro’s work here was viewed as the revelation—again- I’d opt for Keitel—they’re both magnificent so there’s no wrong anwer
Ebert “Scorsese photographs them with fiercely driven visual style”
The motif of the hand to flame is great formal visual repetition—Charlie as a cathlotic caught between worlds— incredibly selfish one minute, wrecked by his guilt complex the next
The duality is shown from the beginning like the harmonium in PT Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love—the church and the streets in the voice-over from Scorsese. It’s not Keitel’s voice in his head. It’s Scorsese. The film stays with that dichotomy—gangsters and priests. Prayer and the sirens of the street.
Great Varda Cleo triple-edit in the opening as Keitel lays on the pillow and then we get the great “By My Baby” by The Ronettes music drop
The red lighting of the bar is a triumph
There’s a great tracking shot early of the camera pinned to Keitel’s back showing the angle from behind him as he dances
The greatest shot of the film, and I think you could correctly argue, the greatest single shot of Scorsese’s career outside of the Copacabana shot in Goodfellas, is the slow-motion tracking shot along the bar of Keitel. It has the red light, the Rolling Stones with “Jumping Jack Flash”—after that shot Scorsese goes to another slow-motion tracking shot, this time of De Niro with a girl on each arm
De Niro is a madman— jumping on the pool table, taking his pants off, dancing around the car to the Mickey’s monkey song
There’s a ton of obvious improvisation and De Niro and Keitel are certainly up to the challenge. The film is funny. The “Mook” scene.
If it wasn’t obvious with him using his own voice for the narration- it’s a personal film- “let’s go to the movies” and then watching The Searchers—we get the “what do you like?” Scene which reminded me of a similar scene in Allen’s Manhattan (which is 6 years later of course)—Keitel says John Wayne, Tall Buildings, Francis of Assisi—hates the outdoors, sunlight.
The film is shot with such energy—the dueling tracking shots in the bar, the POV tracking shot from behind Keitel, I’ll get to the “Rubber Biscuit” scene in a second but we also have the “Mr. Postman” tracking shot around the fight at the pool hall- it’s more of a dance than a fight.
Apparently the score was half the budget and it shows.
It’s plotless – hanging out with these 4 guys- I Vitelloni by Fellini
The sitting in bed being playful with Keitel and Amy Robinson’s Teresa is Godard—Breathless – he even, like Belmondo, points his finger at her imitating a gun and we get a quick jump. He pretends not to look at she changes by covering up his face. Belmondo.
Keitel is crushed when Teresa says “St. Francis didn’t run numbers”—clearly pains him.
The reoccurring obsessions with flames
Keitel’s Charlie views his helping of De Niro as doing good. The selfish vs. selfless
The dedication to a consistent period soundtrack is landmark—the do-wop music
The “Rubber Biscuit” reverse POV tracking shot—used by everyone now from Aronofsky
It’s not exactly Ozu’s pillow shots—but Scorsese does bounce the main narrative straind off the festival in Little Italy. It’s as if to say this is just one story.
The film posters in Mean Streets aren’t accidental – the Point Blant poster with the gun pointing at them— Husbands from Scorsese mentor Cassavetes (who apparently talked him out of doing another Corman film after Boxcar Bertha) and then the actual footage of Corman’s The Tomb of Ligeia in the film.
After the climax chase and shooting—we cut the Uncle, the black girl dancer