Mean Streets




This is the bad boy of cinema. It goes amongst the elite films that blew me the fuck back and said wake up and make movies, you dull boy! I was already sold on the concept, I believe when I first saw it, but Marty grabbed me and very quickly said, “No. Do it. Do it the way you want to. Or try to. Or….tell you what kid, copy me, until you find your own voice. I don’t mind.”

And I did. I ripped him, Tarantino and PT Anderson off ruthlessly, and over the years have found my work distanced from them. For better or worse, they allowed themselves to be the crutches for me to find my own story, and own way of telling it.

The movie is great. This should already be known. Sure: most folks will point at “Raging Bull” or “Goodfellas” as a more perfect Scorsese film. And they would be right. Those are “more perfect” (grammar be damned, it’s written in our Constitution), but this is better. This, for me, is the best. Rough edges and all make it what it is. And it is Marty’s arrival on the scene. It is not coincidence that he himself pulls the fatal trigger in the film’s climax.

If you don’t know what it is about, see it. That’s not what I care to talk about here…no seriously, see it. Out of all the bits of cinema I’ve written on here, I am saying here and now, if you see one, see THIS ONE. This may change later, of course, but for now…this is the one to see, if you only see one.

What I DO want to talk about is how I recently saw this film for the first time in what must be nearly a decade (prior to that the furthest it left my eyes for, was probably more likely a week) and a lot has changed for me.

Which isn’t to say that I’ve matured out of the film or that the imperfections that once resonated so greatly with me now show as imperfections. No, no, no. The film still MOVES the way it always has—it has a life and vibrancy all of its own: it is exciting and dangerous…it doesn’t move like an ordinary creature, so we do not know what to expect of it. Scorsese had yet to polish some of his brilliance and I think it is a fair claim to say that some of it was just a little more brilliant in Beta form. It seems more organic, more real, even though it is totally Style (with a capital “S”, yes).

And another thing,  I remember the movie taking place in a different order, like big time. Harvey’s girl enters a lot later than I remember and his dancer friend plays a much smaller part than I remember.

I mention this because the film still works, and on a weird level. It’s like I’m one of the boys—the surviving boys—who return to this pivotal moment in Little Italy, and remember. And we all remember things a bit differently. Who said what and when. Who did what to whom? And, most of all, we remember Jonny (De Niro in a [ok, one of many] career making performances) and wonder why we love him, because all we can recall when we actually bother to think about it, is all the trouble he caused for everybody.

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