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Friday, February 26, 2010

Mean Streets (1973) - Directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and David Proval

In the early 1970's, young director Martin Scorsese was still struggling to make his mark. At that time, just after the release of 'Boxcar Bertha', Scorsese had started displaying his talent, but it was the release of 'Mean Streets' in 1973 that moved the director much ahead in his career as a director. The movie, starring Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and David Proval, was made with the encouragement of directors such as John Cassavetes, Samuel Fuller, and Jean-Luc Godard, and was released by Warner Brothers. Based on his experience with Boxcar Bertha, Scorsese had learned how to make movies at low cost, and Mean Streets was also a low budget movie, costing only around $500,000. This was one of the first movies that Scorsese made after being told to make movies in the style he wanted rather than make movies for somebody else, and the movie established his signature style (macho men, lots of violence, emotions based on Catholic notions of guilt, and a soundtrack based on rock). The movie is set in a gritty location in New York, again like many of his other movies. Scorsese was originally planning to make the movie called as 'Season of the Witch', but he later changed this to 'Mean Streets', based on a line from author Raymond Chandler's novel 'The Simple Art of Murder'.

The movie was very close to Martin Scorsese, since this was based on events that he used to see everyday in the areas of New York in which he lived. The end result was a movie that earned critical acclaim, with movie critic Pauline Kael being very enthusiastic in support. The movie also earned De Niro an award (not an Oscar though) as Best Supporting Actor for his role as the destructive guy who increasingly heads towards destruction inspite of the efforts his friend Charlie. Charlie in turns plays the role of an Italian-American who is a wannabe mafia member, and who acts as a debt collector for his uncle Giovanni. He also has an ongoing affair with Teresa, who is Johnny Boy's (De Niro) cousin.
The meat of the movie is about the conflict that Charlie faces, with his devout Catholic faith (with its concepts of good vs. bad, redemption, and guilt) versus his ambitions of making it big in the mafia (in direct conflict to his Catholic faith). How does Charlie resolve this dilemma ?

Mean Streets (1973) - Directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and David Proval

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