Considered to be one of the most consistently inventive American directors in the last thirty years, Martin Scorsese has brought to life some of the most violently thought provoking stories onto the screen. Many of his films deal with life in the Mafia. Some have dealt with psychotics and killers. Others have been complete departures that were period pieces, comedies, and even a feminist drama. He has proven that he can do big Hollywood-style movies as well as smaller, independent films. Either way, many of his themes and styles are generally seen in all of his films.
Scorsese likes to work with certain actors on a regular basis. Robert DeNiro has starred in most of Scorsese’s movies with 7. Other actors like Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci have worked on numerous Scorsese films. It seems that with such a specific view on how to make a film, Scorsese likes to work with what he knows. For him, it seems, having actors with whom he knows well, keeps his vision under more control.
In terms of style, Scorsese likes to experiment. In his mobster movies, Scorsese likes to film and edit much of it like a documentary. This is effective in helping the viewer to get acquainted with the criminal life. Parts of Goodfellas and Mean Streets were in this style as was, to a more obvious degree, the first half hour of Casino. Usually the narration plays a large part in this style of filmmaking. The use of narration, in general, is another one of Scorsese’s styles.
In Mean Streets, there is a wonderfully lit and choreographed scene that involves Harvey Keitel’s character Charlie after he becomes intoxicated at a party. He accomplished this using a wide angle lens and unnatural bar room-style lighting with an overwhelmingly red tone to it. It also has a smokey look to it. Also, Keitel’s acting is excellent as he is playing someone who had a bit too much to drink. All these elements together create an amazingly realistic look and feel of intoxication on filmnot that I would know.
One element that confuses me a little is how Keitel is framed in the center of the screen with the background shaking and moving behind him. I have seen this technique done more recently in music videos and I assume it’s with a steady cam that’s held by the actor at a lower angle. In the early 70’s however, I’m not sure if they had developed the steady cam yet.
The lighting itself is great because Keitel’s character walks around the entire bar itself. The whole scene had to be lit ahead of time. Scorcese did this type of long take again even more elaborately in Goodfella’s almost 20 years later when Ray Liota’s character walked into a nightclub from the outside, through the kitchen and then onto the club’s floor without a single cut.