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
Great write-up. This is a film I look forward to revisiting during the run-up to The Irishman… which for me will begin after my current Tarantino rewatches leading up to Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. I may offer a slight pushback on the best shot other than the Copa hot take. There have to be a dozen brilliant shots in Raging Bull… I’m thinking of one remarkable long-take as La Motta goes to the ring before winning the title, but I’m sure there are more. Also, Taxi Driver… the hallway scene, or the top down view tracking shot after the bloodbath. And I’m sure there are more contenders in other films (Casino… The Age of Innocence, etc.) Still, your review has me eager for another viewing.
The shot of LaMotta going into the ring with Pietro Mascagni’s guglielmo Ratcliff playing and de Niro shouting “I’m the boss” with his arm around Pesci. Then the crowd cheers for him. The music stops, he touches his gloves with Cedran. The commentary in the film is very similar to the original commentary. After a few gorgeously edited shots, the referee comes in slow motion and tells LaMotta he has won the championship. His rage takes him to the top the ring but ruins his life outside of it. This is the best edited and acted scene in cinema history. It might be the best thing I have ever seen, movie-wise or other-wise.
@ Matt Harris– thanks for comment and look forward to hearing from you when you get to “Mean Streets”. You could be right about some of the potentially superior shots in “Raging Bull”, “Taxi Driver” (the few you note here are extremely worthy) and others throughout the rest of Scorsese’s body of work. My counter would simply be to ask if there’s any other shot that encapsulates the essence of Scorsese’s style more than that shot here above of Keitel in slow-motion, tracking along to the Rolling Stones? You could argue that’s different than “best” but i also find it to be an excellent shot so when comparing and contrasting so many brilliant shots— i like the one that is so intrinsically a part of his visual language.
What an incredible, incredible film. Scorsese is so talented that this movie isn’t even in his top 3 (in my opinion). This movie has a very loose plot but its still great. A lot of people criticize scorsese for (mostly) making the same type of film over and over again. What do you think of this criticism?
@Azman— ” It’s the only movie of mine with a plot.” – Scorsese talking about The Departed. Another one from Scorsese “The films that I constantly revisited or saw repeatedly held up longer for me over the years not because of plot but because of character, and a very different approach to story.”
I don’t think much of or about the people who criticize Scorsese in general. If i do think about them I typically think “Thank goodness I know so much more about cinema than this person” – haha.
I’ll just add that making the same type of film over and over again is a good thing. Most great artists have a style, a consistent mode, genre– consistencies. I think these are positives. I like knowing who the artist is when i’m watching a movie whether it’s Tarantino, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Malick, Scorsese, Hitchcock… look at the best directors of all-time, Ozu, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman…. a consistent style is a positive– trademarks, authorship….
I never said it had a plot, just a very loose , ‘weak’ plot about a few gangsters avoiding another gang they had a rivalry with. Its hard to even describe what plot means especially in movies. The only movies with absolutely no plot are experimental. What source do u have for the Scorsese quote? Maybe Scorsese meant the departed had a more serious plot? I dont know and I don’t care. The only thing that matters is how great his movies are.
I’ve seen a lot of people (even on this website) claim that Kubrick should be #1 because he made movies in a variety of genres. What do you think of this? I think mastering one genre is just as good as doing well in multiple genres, but most people dont share the same opinion as me.
“The films that I constantly revisited or saw repeatedly held up longer for me over the years not because of plot but because of character, and a very different approach to story.”. This is probably the best way to describe about how I feel when watching any scorsese movie.
i just watched this yesterday. whenever i see a movie i usually rave right after so i shouldn’t declare this as a masterpiece right yet perhaps. but it was great and i think it will stick with me. harvey keitel especially is great and i think i like this better than goodfellas because this is more unpredictable and focuses more on the characters while in the goodfellas everyone gets whacked. it is still a great film though.
In fingers(1978) Harvey Keitel gives one of his best performances.You should add it to your queue.
@Janith- Thank you. I have seen Fingers
How many times?Why is it not in the archives?
Do you think fingers isn’t good enough or will it get added in the future?
Do you think Fingers(1978) isn’t good enough or will it get added after another viewing?
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