Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, Goodfellas, Casino, Cape Fear, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence and now The Irishman. Most Directors would give a limb to have made just one of these magisterial films. That list numbers 12. And then there’s a bunch more of note sitting just below these.
The cinema industry is up in arms at Netflix pinching surely one of Scorsese’s last great outings from under their noses.
£200m was pumped into this movie that’s been sitting around, unmade for a decade.
It tempted Joe Pesci out of his retirement and put Pacino, Pesci and De Niro under Scorsese’s gaze for the first time.
And what a gaze.
In a 210 minute film that gives about 5 to women this is a man’s, man’s, man’s outing to outman all of its lofty predecessors, but there were many women in the audience of the big screen showing I attended and they loved it.
Anna Pacquin, De Niro’s daughter, is the only female character of note in the movie (the wives are fairly incidental). Her single scripted word screams volumes from the screen and makes her appearance meritorious despite its paucity.
Pacino and Pesci are wonderful, but it’s a De Niro movie. Scorsese’s real muse this bookend’s both of their careers starting with Taxi Driver and surely ending here. It’s a massive performance full of grit, humour and pathos. It’s simply breathtaking. Especially when you consider the mid – late career crud that De Niro has been serving us.
Note this, Phoenix has competition for the Oscar that we all thought was surely a shoo-in only a month or two ago.
The humour is unexpected and one scene, in particular, where an absurd conversation about a fish takes place in a car, reminds us of the Chicken Royale scene in Pulp Fiction. Clearly Scorsese has been noting the competition and, here, matches or possibly even exceeds them.
This demands to be seen on the big screen. The monumental running time sits better with a cinema screening where you can tackle it, in its full immensity, without trips to the teapot (or wine cellar – it’s a two bottler). What it allows Scorsese is the time to tell a complex tale languidly. It gives him room to explore male relationships, bonding and latterly reflection on a life that has had much shame.
That Scorsese takes maybe 30 minutes to conclude a movie that in other hands would last five is telling. But it’s exactly this that lies at the heart of an epic that sadly many will just say is boring.
It’s anything but.
Much has been made of the ‘de-aging’ technology, mostly critically, but it really helps to tell a four-decade story using the same actors throughout. OK, it made De Niro a little rosy-cheeked at times, but it gets away with it. And the ageing of Pesci, in particular, is amazing. His final scenes of a man in very old age are moving and gripping.
I was blown away.