Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman,’ which had a run in selected theaters, started streaming on Netflix yesterday.
The three-and-half-hour epic comes after a decade-long journey that brought a legendary filmmaker into the realm of a platform that is redefining cinema in a time of small screens and everchanging entertainment alliances.
‘The Irishman’ was released in theaters on November 1. However, as part of an agreement between Scorcese and Netflix, the $160-million film did not get the theatrical run of big studio films. Similar to ‘Roma‘ and ‘Marriage Story,’ which Netflix also acted as a distributor for, ‘The Irishman’ is another sign of Hollywood’s strategy to lure in master directors, writers, and actors to its streaming service universe.
‘The Irishman’ is based on the life of Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro), a mafia hitman who claims to have taken out Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino) of the Teamsters union, and has earned Scorsese some of the most astonishing reviews of his entire career.
It is a story of organized crime, greed, politics, murder and the relationships of criminal men who age, die and fall into darkness.
It feels like a metaphor for what was seen as the American Century, which spanned from WWII to the new millennium.
“With all the flash and all the spectacle gone, what’s left?” Scorsese said in an interview a month ago, prior to the film’s theatrical release.
THE IRISHMAN is now on Netflix pic.twitter.com/iIQ8QtrrCA
— Netflix US (@netflix) November 27, 2019
He refers to the situation Sheeran finds himself in the late stages of his life – the vivid details which are described in Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” a euphemism for murder.
“For me, it’s hard to put into words. You take that world and you strip it away and you’re left with individual existence. Frank’s there (in a nursing home). He’s reflecting. I like to think he gets his soul back somehow.”
Scorcese is a walking encyclopedia of cinema whose role models include Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, John Cassavetes, and Sam Peckinpah. During all the euphoria around the opening of ‘The Irishman,’ the director took a step back to the old days of filmmaking, causing social media fury and backlash for saying that Marvel movies – which have been dominating the box office for a while now – are more of an amusement park ride than real cinema. They are a fleeting thrill, he said, with little reverence for the complexity of human nature.
Many fans of the Marvel universe, a few filmmakers and even Disney CEO Bob Iger were angered by Scorcese’s comments. But, in his mind, this is a classic case of art being pushed under the bus in the name of commerce.
In a recent interview, he reminded us of Alfred Hitchcock, a director with a sharp eye for marketing and showmanship, as an example of a filmmaker who created popular thrillers and mysteries without sacrificing the wholeness of his characters.
“Hitchcock played the audience like an orchestra,” said Scorsese. “ ‘The Birds.’ ‘Strangers on a Train.’ The thing is, with the Hitchcock pictures, you can go back 10 years, 20 years later, and they’re still rich. Some are better than others. ‘Rear Window’ stands up more than ‘To Catch a Thief.’ ‘Psycho’ remains. What’s interesting about ‘Psycho’ is that the murder scenes, all that incredible editing, still hold up. But that’s not the most interesting stuff. All the dialogue, all the angles, the use of music, the looks on the faces of the actors, the framing. That has a resonance. It’s about people.”
Tiny screens, VR, varying dimensions, and CGI are remodeling the way films are created. And Scorsese can in no way escape all this; he utilized a costly ‘de-aging’ process in flashbacks in order to make his actors look more youthful in ‘The Irishman.’
However, he believes that in the end technology must be a servant of our deeply-rooted need to tell and be told stories about our nature as human beings.
“You can’t stop the creative impulse of young people wanting to tell stories, whether it’s writing, painting, music, theater,” he said. “They’re going to do it, and I think the reaction is stripping it all away and going back to the human being. The storyteller.”
‘The Irishman, ‘ which is a powerful awards season challenger, is a celebration of those principles.
A lot can happen in a lifetime. pic.twitter.com/S2eLY1dB88
— The Irishman (@TheIrishmanFilm) September 25, 2019
Written by Steven Zaillian, the movie, which until now has grossed over $4 million at the box office (Netflix does not disclose such numbers), tells a story of deceit and corruption. It focuses on the relationships and loyalness of wise guys. However, it is also a portrait of America’s sins and imperfections from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba by President Kennedy to Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Historical news programs are played throughout the movie and lead us to reflect on current times.
“The point is [democracy] is always in progress, and now we’re having our biggest test since the Civil War. The world is constantly being tested on how we should live,” said Scorsese. “I go back to ancient Greece. You had Plato and Dionysius in Syracuse. Dionysius was this terrible tyrant, but he brought Plato over because Plato was talking about the philosopher king. He was going to teach Dionysius. But Dionysius wound up arresting Plato. He sent him off to be a slave. It didn’t work.”
“It makes us reflect on what we’re supposed to be. This document called the Constitution. Now, we’re all getting a real education.”
Scorsese has dedicated much of his existence looking into dark hearts and analyzing different strains of violence, greed, and power.
From “Goodfellas” to “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the figures he portrays have not always found atonement but in them, we have seen parts of ourselves.
”I wanted to witness that process with him by the last half hour of the picture,” he about Sheeran in “The Irishman.” “Coming to our own reckoning that we all have to do, if we’re given the time. That’s the price he had to pay. Ultimately, God forgives him, but does he forgive himself. I think that’s the dilemma for most people.”
You can see the final trailer for The Irishman in the link below.
Are you excited for Scorcese’s latest film? What are your thoughts on The Irishman (if you have seen it already)?
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