Skip to main content
Mean Streets film image

Mean Streets

This event has passed

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)


Martin Scorsese


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

Country of Origin






112 min

Book Tickets

This event has passed.



Jonathan T. Taplin


Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin


Kent L. Wakeford


Sidney Levin

More Films in This Series

Charley Varrick

Bank robber Charley (Walter Matthau) accidentally hits a mob money laundering operation in this ingenious and entertaining crime thriller from Dirty Harry director Don Siegel.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story of a New York bank robbery which turned into a hostage siege (and a media spectacle), Sidney Lumet's gripping movie showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the homosexual, married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre


The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma's career, Carrie takes Stephen King's horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller".

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

All the President's Men

This gripping account of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation into the Watergate break-in is a masterclass of cinematic craft from director Alan J Pakula (Klute; The Parallax View) and DP Gordon Willis (The Godfather).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Phantom of the Paradise

De Palma’s delirious mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and 70s glam-rock is the musical/horror/comedy freak-out that Rocky Horror wanted to be.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Parallax View

The most lucid and ingenious, the most deeply, creepily satisfying of paranoia thrillers, Alan J. Pakula's film posits an assassination corporation. Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is on to Them, or so he believes…

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre