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Mean Streets

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This is where Martin Scorsese hit his stride. After a decade on the brink, the man who had once contemplated entering the priesthood made his breakthrough by bringing it all back home: Little Italy, NYC, 1973. Here we find Charlie Cappa (Harvey Keitel), diligently making his way in the mob, looking out for his fuckup cousin Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), and secretly carrying on with Johnny’s epileptic sister, Teresa (Amy Robinson). At the same time, he’s telling it like it is to the Lord: “It’s all bullshit apart from the pain…”

How deeply did Scorsese identify with Charlie? In his prayers, the actor’s voice is mixed in with the director’s to the point where they become one. Mean Streets is a pilgrim’s progress which ends in a vision of hell – appropriately, given this particular pilgrim’s shortcomings. But let’s not overlook the film’s exuberance, the dynamic, inventive camerawork (including the greatest drunk scene ever shot), the inspired use of rock, and the hilarious comic shtick between Keitel and a firecracker De Niro. In the push and pull between these two characters we find the first embodiments of the dynamic which agitates so much of Scorsese’s work between the intellectual and the animalistic, the repressed and the anarchic, the sacred and the profane.

Raymond Chandler was right: Down these Mean Streets a man must go…

Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is also screening in our Ragged Glory: Summer in the 70s series.

A true original of our period, a triumph of personal filmmaking. It has its own hallucinatory look; the characters live in the darkness of bars, with lighting and color just this side of lurid. It has its own unsettling, episodic rhythm and a high-charged emotional range that is dizzyingly sensual.

Pauline Kael, New Yorker

A jazzy riff of a movie, zigging and zagging as if to the beat of snapping fingers.

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

The movie’s blazing energy is still astounding; the vérité street-scenes are terrific and Scorsese’s pioneering use of popular music is genuinely thrilling.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (2005)

July 21 Only: Introduction from local writer Mike Archibald (My Thoughts Exactly)

Director

Martin Scorsese

Cast

Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval, Amy Robinson, fRichard Romanus, Cesare Danova

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1973

Language

English

19+
112 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Producer

Jonathan T. Taplin

Screenwriter

Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin

Cinematography

Kent L. Wakeford

Editor

Sidney Levin

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