The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

I was first introduced to Scorsese with Mean Streets. It was different than anything I’d seen before, both with it’s straight on violence and perfect musical marriages. Then came Taxi Driver … for a 17 year old film fan, this was a masterpiece. New York New York made me think that Scorsese was in the same league as Kubrick. A chameleon who could switch genres effortlessly. This was further reinforced by a complete genre switch with King of Comedy, Raging Bull, The Colour of Money and After Hours, to name a few. This was one diverse director. I loved all these films.

And then Gangs of New York. I loved it, but it reeked of wanting to be an Oscar winning film. To me, Scorsese eschewed the intimacy of his earlier gangster pictures to trade up to a swaggering grandness. That film, and his impressive body of work, should really have earned him the little gold man.

After that, I thought he took a turn. While Aviator won the Oscar, it seemed ‘safe’ in comparison to all his other films. Lise and really looked forward to his adaptation of one of our favourite Hong Kong films, Infernal Affairs. Alas, it was disappointment … a formally elegant story now littered with unnecessary contrivances, and one of the most on-the-nose endings I’ve ever seen. Hugo really didn’t know what it wanted to be, and some of the 3D was vomit inducing, and then Wolf of Wall Street, a well regarded film by most, I thought an overdone mess.

The Irishman was my last hope. If this didn’t go well, I think I was ready to part ways with Marty.

I was more than pleasantly surprised. Mary was back.

I found The Irishman to be a bridge between his early gangster classics and the grandness of Gangs of New York. The Irishman is a true epic told in an unhurried way. In many ways it reminded me of Lean in his epic period, with examples like Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia … stories that span time, but speak simply.

I’m sure there have already been volumes written about the great performances, particularly Pesci ( who I read had to be dragged out of retirement kicking and screaming ), and how far deaging CGI has come, so no need for me to add to that chorus.

One thing did hit me, though. Marty is back on track with music. I remember way back in ‘74 when I first saw Mean Streets, it was how he integrated period pop as a character in that story. Here, it’s less frantic … more relaxed, but just as effective. While most likely picked up on the Godfather Waltz, it was using the old Jackie Gleason Show theme song that gave me the biggest smile. He knew that just the old farts like me that would catch it, but even those who didn’t, it fit the sound of the time perfectly.

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