Showing posts with label Harry Northup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harry Northup. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mean Streets


Generally regarded as Martin Scorsese’s first great film and the third in my Scorsese in Sequence feature, Mean Streets is perhaps Scorsese’s most personal film to date. Centred in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighbourhood that Scorsese grew up, in the film charts the day to day lives of a group of young Italian American men. Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is a semi connected guy who works for his uncle, a local mafia boss but dreams of running a restaurant. He feels responsible for his no good friend Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro) who owes everyone in the neighbourhood money and has no intention of paying it back. Michael (Richard Romanus) is a loan shark who Johnny Boy owes a huge debt to. Johnny Boy tries to avoid the people he owes but this becomes difficult as both he and Michael frequent Tony’s (David Proval) bar.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Boxcar Bertha

Martin Scorsese’s second picture and the second in my Scorsese in Sequence feature is Boxcar Bertha. Bertha Thompson (Barbara Hershey) is a young woman whose father dies in an aircraft accident. With no money and no home she travels around the Depression hit South aboard railway boxcars. Along the way she meets ‘Big’ Bill Shelly (David Carradine), a Union Man and suspected Communist. The two of them begin a relationship and along with Yankee, Rake Brown (Barry Primus) and ‘negro’, Von Morton (Bernie Casey) take to robbing trains as a means of surviving.

This is unlike most other Scorsese films. It is the only one to feature a woman in the central role and one of only a handful set outside of the East Coast. As a result it feels amongst the least Scorsese-esque of his films. The direction is fairly straightforward. There are no trademark long tracking shots, very little popular music and cutting is slow and traditional. One area in which Scorsese does stick to type is with Bertha’s moral ambiguity. At the beginning she is a sweet young girl but towards the end she is a woman who will do anything it takes to survive and appears to enjoy the wilder side of life. The film also contains Scorsese’s trademark violence, especially in an unexpectedly brutal final scene.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Who's That Knocking at My Door

The first in my Scorsese in Sequence feature and also Martin Scorsese’s debut feature film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door stars Harvey Keitel as J.R, a typical Italian American guy living in New York’s Little Italy neighbourhood. On the Staten Island Ferry J.R. meets a pretty, college educated woman played by Zina Bethune. After a long conversation about John Wayne, American movies and foreign magazines the two start dating. All is well until the girl announces that she has a horrible secret, something that J.R. has trouble dealing with.

The films opening two scenes show signs of some of Scorsese’s later work and feature an Italian mother cooking (Italianamerican, Goodfellas) and J.R. getting into a street brawl with his friends (Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York). An early scene which really stands out for me is the meeting of the two protagonists. The scene lasts several minutes as the two get to know each other. Both are noticeably nervous. Bethune is shy and reserved while Keitel fidgets and talks too quickly. The scene is shot using a single camera which slowly pans from one actor to the other, occasionally zooming in and out. It is a quite beautiful shot. After a few minutes Scorsese breaks with this and introduces some unusual camera angles including one from above and another that obscures both actors’ mouths with a bench. It’s an interesting and bold start to a debut feature.