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If Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” fixed an image of the Mafia as a shadow government, Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” inspired the other main line in modern gangster movies, the film of everyday reality. In countless ways, right down to the detail of modern TV crime shows, “Mean Streets” is one of the source points of modern movies.The Ebert Club is our hand-picked selection of content for Ebert fans.
The style is displayed joyously in “Mean Streets” as Charlie and friends go to collect from a pool hall owner, who is happy to pay.
But then Johnny Boy is called a “mook,” and although nobody seems quite sure what a mook is, that leads to a wild, disorganized fight.
At one point, late in the film, he goes into the bar, orders scotch and holds his fingers over the glass as the bartender pours, copying the position of the priest’s fingers over the chalice.
That kind of sacramental detail would also be a motif in “Taxi Driver,” where overhead shots mirror the priest’s-eye-view of the altar, and the hero also places his hand in a flame.
,” which was also set in Little Italy and also starred Keitel.
In both films he uses a hand-held camera for scenes of quick movement and fights, and scores everything with period rock ‘n’ roll music (a familiar tactic now, but unheard of in 1967).
The film recalls days when there was a greater emphasis on sin--and rigid ground rules, inspiring dread of eternal suffering if a sinner died without absolution. All the rest is BS and you know it.” The voice belongs to Scorsese.
The key words in the movie are the first ones, spoken over a black screen: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. We see Charlie (Harvey Keitel) starting up in bed, awakened by a dream, and peering at his face in a bedroom mirror.
Johnny launches on a rambling, improvised cock-and-bull story about a poker game, a police raid, a fight--finally even losing the thread himself.
Scorsese first displayed his distinctive style in his first feature, “I Call First / Who's That Knocking at My Door?