I try to deny it but in the final analysis I am just not a Martin Scorsese kind of guy. Can’t even spell his name properly. (I want to spell it “Scorcese”, even though that would be “scor-chezz-ee”, at least in some dialects—and, look, Italian’s a mess of messy dialects.) I can totally get behind the man’s skill as a filmmaker and why people think of him as a cinematic genius, but the best technique in the world doesn’t make up (for me) movies about terrible people doing terrible thing to themselves and society. I could go full Godwin here and say “Leni Reifenstahl was considered a genius, too”, but that’s over the top and, frankly, I don’t hate his movies. I just never like them very much.
This sometimes kills, as with Hugo, which by all rights, I should have loved but was just thoroughly bored by. And I really wanted to see Silence (about Christian missionaries in 17th century Japan when it was outlawed) but I know I wouldn’t like it.
And, to be brutally honest, and keeping in with my belief that movie critics by-and-large have gut reactions to films which they then use their extensive knowledge to justify, I should note that if my true objection to Scorcese was just about the messages he seems to send and the topics he covers—well, then I really should have loved Hugo, shouldn’t I have?
Sometimes, art is just not on your frequency, and you don’t like it and it doesn’t make any sense to go beyond that.
Which brings us to Goodfellas which, along with Raging Bull (and now Silence, allegedly, according to some) are considered the high water marks of Scorsese’s career.
This is the story of a lightly murderous psychopath who lives the good life, for a while, as a mob guy. He marries a nice, psychopathic Jewish girl, and gets himself the occasional psychopathic mistress.
It’s a well-done film, obviously, and people who really like it can point out all the great shots, like a really long tracking shot through a restaurant’s back entrance, kitchen and so on, when Our Hero takes The Heroine into a club, VIP style. It’s a good shot. Must’ve been a bitch to pull off. I really didn’t care much.
I was moderately interested, overall, up until the first time Our Hero (Ray Liotta, in a career-defining performance) gets nicked and goes to jail. The movie goes on for another three hours after that (well, okay, it only feels like three hours) as he gets out of jail and starts drug running against his boss’s wishes because, hey, you know, he’s a goddamned criminal and criminals do that sort of thing. But even for criminals drugs are bad, and his increasing dependence on the wares diminishes his ability to psychopath properly. Before you know it, he’s nicked again. (Well, not before you know it. It takes about an hour.)
The movie’s stinger is, essentially, that he gets put into Witness Protection and is forced to live out his life in a quiet suburb: A fate worse than death or jail (except that he chose it over death or jail).
I would’ve given it a miss but I hadn’t seen it on the big screen, and neither had the Boy. So, with The Flower and The (Boy’s) Girl in tow, we sat through this. I probably liked it least, though The Flower and The Girl weren’t huge fans. The Boy was okay with it, but he noted that, like a lot of biographical movies, it was kind of formless and it lost a lot of steam after the first arrest.
Great performances, of course, from Liotta, Joe Pesci, De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Lorraine Bracco, Debbie Mazar and virtually everyone. I noted that the movie virtually dares you to like anyone in the film, and The Flower said that De Niro was charming. I pointed out that he was a heavily murderous psychopath (versus Liotta’s lightly murderous one) and she agreed that he was despicable, but that as an actor, De Niro was more charming.
Fair enough: Liotta’s eyes alone make it look like he’s always on the verge of killing you and, maybe, just maybe, eating you.
Whatevs. I’m not your guy for Scorsese reviews, or shouldn’t be, unless you don’t like him either.