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Thread: The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel)

  1. #31
    When Martin Scorsese made GOODFELLAS he was in his mid- to late-40s. It was a dynamic, thrilling edge of your seat journey into the criminal underworld, fueled by his own upbringing among 'mob' figures in his New York City hood. Now, some 29 years later the famed Director is pushing 80. The tone is different, and dare one say (?) -- the filmmaker looks at the criminal activity within differently as well.

    THE IRISHMAN strikes a somber tone from the beginning. A tracking shot leads us to Robert DeNiro in chair confessing straight to camera. As if he were confessing to a Priest. DeNiro is Frank Sheeran, a WWII veteran Pennsylvania truck driver who stumbles his way into the graces of the Bufalino crime family headed by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Small 'favors' eventually became bigger and bigger ones which included another mob boss Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel). Sheeran was Irish, but, as he gained more and more trust he eventually was partnered with one of the Mafia's 'partners' - the Teamsters, headed by one Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

    THE IRISHMAN is told in a series of flashbacks and narrations. The muscle for a corrupt union boss like Sheeran is about as unreliable a narrator as you can get. The book which Steve Zallian's fine script is based on is entitled I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. Even that title has been disputed by other chroniclers of underworld crime, who claim they've never heard it employed by actual mobsters as a euphemism for a mob hit.

    DeNiro has be inconsistent in his post RAGING BULL career. And, even within THE IRISHMAN he displays some of that. He's better in older scenes, but, seems to be too mannered and perhaps too conscious of not trying to repeat his earlier, fiery performances. There is a lot of fine acting all around, but the focus is on the Scorsese quartet. His traveling company as it were. Keitel is mostly a presence, but conveys gravitas. Pacino is playing “Al Pacino” in Jimmy Hoffa makeup, hair and costume. But, once one gets past the notion that he isn't playing Hoffa as much as his bravado version of same, it's a compelling performance. Joe Pesce doesn't get the big, loud or brassy scenes as he is most famous for -- and he's all the more effective for it. Pesce was apparently reluctant to come out of retirement, but, here he delivers one of his most finest roles. Outwardly still and restrained, he nonetheless commands the screen.

    Zallian's script is sober but with a dark humor flowing throughout. The droll laughs come mostly out of actions and story, but some of it knowingly pays tribute to well known personas of the main cast, as well as Scorsese's career long exploration of this world. One thread that is woven through the film are title cards which introduce many of the multitude of crime figures in the story -- usually, highlighting their bios with their, let's say, “untimely” demises! The flashback structure as well as the film's sheer length (209 minutes), demand the complete attention of the viewer. Thelma Schoonmaker's editing is excellent, if a bit slack at times (even considering the film's tone) and there are a few patchy sequences which could have been tightened up. Each hour builds upon the one previous, and then there is an extended epilogue. But, it's all of a piece.

    Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto mixes digital & film to capture the images, and it's an effective mix. The digital was likely in part because of the extensive use of CGI to 'de-age' the antediluvian cast, as it follows them over several decades (with Sheeran's character even shown as a soldier in Sicily - which required de-aging DeNiro over 50 years). It's a mixed bag. The tech has come a long way, but, it still shows the seams - particularly in wider shots where it can appear that a Digital mask has been grafted on. One can't help think of THE GODFATHER II and how odd it would have been for Brando to play the young Vito Corleone (played, of course, by DeNiro).

    THE IRISHMAN is clearly and older man's - and it should be. One can't help but think of the later films of an Akira Kurosawa (who Scorsese is a great admirer of). With KAGEMUSHA and RAN in the 80s, the Japanese master filmmaker who became internationally famous with his dynamic Samurai films of the 50s & 60s, gave us a more mature look back. One can look at THE IRISHMAN as the logical conclusion of his grand crime trilogy with GOODFELLAS and CASINO (the problematic middle child) being the first two sections (see also Scorsese's contemporary, Francis Ford Coppola's, Godfather trilogy; who Scorsese pays explicit homage to here).

    A younger Scorsese may have ended the film at around the three hour mark. There's a definite point at which the 'story' ends. Because of the bookends, a few moments to wrap it up would have been in order. But, here, Zallian and Scorsese keep on. And on. There isn't a neat and clean ending. Just as in life, there is always more. A lingering afterthought. A legacy. An elegy. Some of the epilogue is almost too painful to watch. Too intimate. Too personal. But, Scorsese's camera doesn't flinch. It's as if he is expressing through his camera that he too is confronting that epilogue himself.

    Flaws and all, you almost wish this were Scorsese's swan song - but, why deprive the world of the possibility of another great film?

  2. #32
    Administrator Ian Jane's Avatar
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    Finally got around to this yesterday afternoon and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I expected good, I got great. This is an incredibly well-acted movie. Joe's thoughts above about Pacino and DeNiro echo my own and Pesce steals every damn scene he's in. It would have used more Keitel but when he's in it, you pay attention because, damn it, it's Keitel and he just has that presence. It never felt too long to me, it felt right. The pacing was fine. The cinematography was great. The score was excellent.

    Like the others have said, the de-aging is just weird and there are moments where it can take you out of the film. Again, I'll circle back to Joe's 'digital mask' comment, that seems spot on to me.

    Anyway, all around I thought this was excellent. It had no trouble holding my attention throughout and even got me a little emotional at the end. It also made me want to re-watch Goodfellas, Casino and Once Upon A Time In America.
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  3. #33
    Girl Boss Jane Alison Jane's Avatar
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    Those blue eyes were messing with me throughout. Other than that, better than I expected. Figured any of these guys would be "past it," but they all really did a great job.
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  4. #34
    Administrator Ian Jane's Avatar
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    My main concern was DeNiro. He's been bordering and crossing into self-parody for a while now and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to buy him in this but, weird blue eyes and digital mask not withstanding, he was great. He did a bit of the mugging face thing that's become such a cliche for him here and there, but overall I liked him a lot in the part and that last epilogue bit, pretty powerful stuff.
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  5. #35
    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
    Those blue eyes were messing with me throughout. Other than that, better than I expected. Figured any of these guys would be "past it," but they all really did a great job.
    When he does that first scene talking to Pesci under the hood of the truck, it definitely threw me.

  6. #36
    Girl Boss Jane Alison Jane's Avatar
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  7. #37
    Typical of the New York Post.
    "Ah! By god's balls what licentiousness!"

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  8. #38
    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
    Pesci's scenes with the daughter are supposed to be unsettling and creepy. Derp. I cant argue anything aboit people not liking the deaging though.

  9. #39
    This carpet would be perfect for a game of craps

    ...I think others have been more eloquent but I’ll just say this is DeNiro’s best role since Raging Bull in my book. Regardless of the deaging, mugging, etc. The scenes when he’s facing his kid or talking to Jo Hoffa are heart breaking. I hope he wins and Oscar
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  10. #40
    I like this kid.

    "Ah! By god's balls what licentiousness!"

    Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom.

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