Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mean Streets

Whatsa matter with you?
Mean Streets, 1973, directed by Martin Scorcese.
Written by Martin Scorcese and Mardik Martin
starring: Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro, David Proval

"A small-time hood struggles to succeed on the "mean streets" of Little Italy." (imdb).

I love this. Little Italy in the seventies; what a place. This was only Scorcese's third feature length film, but man, it's a goodie. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but Harvey Keitel? Hot. I'm not kidding.

This film is full of fun:

-opening scene: "You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home." You said it, man. Those three edits, each cut closer than the last as he lays back down in his bed (to the Ronettes?) . . . so, so cool.

-the religious stuff. Constant thrusting hands into flames, confession, wallpaper very cross-like in hotel, San Gennero Festival, etc., it's major. Keitel's character (Charlie) is referred to as "Saint Charles."

-DeNiro as Johnny Boy. The scene when he walks down the bar with the two chicks to "Jumping Jack Flash" is *legendary.* The scene just afterwards where he goes on for about THREE DAYS about his money woes with Charlie---even at that young an age (30 years old, y'all) DeNiro was something else.

-This film was very carefully conceived. It was a story of the exact kinds of things young Martin Scorcese witnessed, asthma-bound, from his own window in his old neighborhood: hoods, connected guys, religion, and music. And though Charlie and Johnny Boy seem to end up in the gutter, did you happen to notice the opening credits (after the Ronettes)? They're home movies, started off in a very obvious way paying homage to A FILM PROJECTOR. The films themselves are of Charlie and Theresa holding a little baby in a very elaborate Christening gown and a cake that's iced with the words, "God Bless Christopher." I'm not going to get into how seriously this turns me into a complete, emotional water works, but how's that for a (secret) happy ending? Tricky, tricky. The very last scene of the film just so happens to be someone closing their window shades, by the way. . .

This film was pretty much a valentine by Scorcese to Little Italy. I love it.

The quality is not great on this clip, and it's missing some valuable lead up (DeNiro checks his *pants* at the coat-check; Keitel's character says, "Thanks a lot, Lord, thanks a lot, for opening my eyes. You talk about penance and you send this through the door. . . ") but it's the best I could find. Incidentally, the giggling bartender (Proval) would later go onto become the unfortunately-hacked-to-pieces-by-Christopher-and-Tony Ritchie Aprile from The Sopranos', second season. He doesn't quite have such a sense of humor in that, does he?


Justin Garrett Blum said...

Never seen this one, believe it or not. I don't even know anything about it.