The Irishman (2019)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 27, 2019 @ tonymacklin.net.

After seeing Marty Scorsese's The Irishman, I thought it might be Scorsese's Heaven's Gate (1981).

In length, pace, and redundancy, it could remind one of Michael Cimino's monumental bomb. I thought The Irishman might bring down Netflix, the way Heaven's Gate almost destroyed United Artists.

I was nonplused.

Then I went back and read the interview I did many years ago with Marty in his apartment in Los Angeles at the top of La Cienega Boulevard, after the release of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). We talked about Alice and Mean Streets (1973). [I think it's one of my most informative interviews, which can be heard at tonymacklin.net].

Marty told me how much of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore he had to drop. His original cut was 3 hours and 16 minutes, but the film was released in an hour and 53 minute version.

With The Irishman, Marty gets his 3 1/2 hour version.

The Irishman, with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian loosely based on a book by Charles Brandt, is the tale of three men and their devious, often brutal exploits. The three are Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), and Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

The Irishman is a saga that sags. But what gives it heft and vision is that it's Marty Scorsese being personal.

In our interview, Marty said about one shot in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, "Yes, it's a very personal thing for me. I don't care if the audience doesn't get it." That may sound cavalier, but it captures a crucial element in Scorsese's work.

"What is so earth shaking is that you've got to stay personal," he said.

In The Irishman, Marty stays personal.

In the film, Frank grows old and is in a home for the aged. But he has no remorse for his professional actions. He did what he did. It's "water under the dam." But personally, he has regrets, especially for his estranged daughter Peggy (Lucy Gallina from age 7 to 11, then Anna Paquin).

No remorse professionally. Regrets personally. That should strike a chord in many of us.

At this point I doubt that The Irishman is as good as the underrated Silence (2016). It doesn't have the arc of Casino (1995). It is more flat-line.

Many of the characters in The Irishman are limited. They're almost one-dimensional. The only female who has any depth is Peggy. Remember Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for Best Actress in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Peggy is symbolic of someone who resists her father's life style. But Jimmy Hoffa brings her to life, when he gives her ice cream and he dances with her.

The Irishman has redundancy. I guess audiences never tire of watching a car going around corners on empty streets or people getting shot in the head. Or Jimmy Hoffa raving. Or bickering ad nauseam.

Obviously, The Irishman is well-made, with Scorsese's tracking shots, Scorsese's veteran Thelma Schoonmaker editing, Rodrigo Prieto - who also shot Silence - doing the cinematography.

The pop music helps create a palpable atmosphere. The Five Satins' In the Still of the Night both begins and ends the film. Music throbs: Fats Domino's The Fat Man, Jo Stafford's You Belong to Me, Johnny Ray's Cry.

I may have doubts professionally about The Irishman.

But personally, I have none.

© 2000-2019 Tony Macklin