A Warner Bros. release of a Taplin-Perry-Scorsese Production. Director: Martin Scorsese. Executive Producer: E. Lee Perry. Producer: Jonathon T. Taplin. Screenplay : Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin. Cast: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval, Amy Robinson. Technicolor, 110 minutes.
MEAN STREETS is a saga of macho ambitions and Mafioso-like adventures in Lower Manhattan's Little Italy. That may sound like The Godfather, but MEAN STREETS is highly personal and semi-autobiographical, stamped with a sincerity and understanding that makes it a great movie. Director Martin Scorsese grew up in Little Italy, and uses his own life and friends as the basis of the film. A number of actors are just neighborhood guys playing themselves, and the central character, Charlie is based on Scorsese and a friend of his still living in Little Italy.
The movie is deeply violent, and its conclusions are quite depressing, but director writer Scorsese used his closeness to the subject to develop a profound autobiographical saga, acted out by four lifelong male friends, and one woman, who are forced to confront each other at a point in life where they are made to decide what they will be. For three of them the clowning and gang adventures of youth must give into the serious business of male adulthood -running a bar, doing errands for a Mafioso-like Uncle, and lending money to friends at high interest rates. The fourth man is a psychotic rebel who can't pay back the loan, and insults his friend/creditor until honor demands murder.
MEAN STREETS is similar to a number of other current films (Serpico, Deliverance, The Sting, Butch Cassidy , etc.) in its fixation with male interaction and comaraderie. But MEAN STREETS is very different, because it questions instead of praising the aspects of rough-housing, loyalty , and ambition. MEAN STREETS looks inside male pride and obligations, and follows through its actions to conclusions of a violent and tragic nature.
MEAN STREETS is the human side of The Godfather. It explains how the ethics of success and clan loyalty make gangsterism strong in Little Italy. The community is a small closed society, and it seems that nearly everyone is linked up in the obligations of family, friendship and business. Success is highly praised, and the young men aspire to prove their courage, invulnerability and business sensibilities. But the business is usually suspicious , and dangerous if mishandled. The story and the tragedy of the movie grow out of the central character Charlie's inability to live as he pleases, with friends of his choosing, and at the same time please his wealthy gangster/restauranteur Uncle
MEAN STREETS is far more than a series of first hand observations and insights. Director Martin Scorsese had asthma as a kid, and was forced to abstain from the wild physicality of adolescence in Little Italy. He got hooked on movies when he watched tv while the other guys were on the streets. He was a true Catholic, but got kicked out of the seminary for rough-housing during prayers. In high school he became an ardent movie fan, and hung out at New York's low priced revival movie theatres. He studied film at New York University, and went on to edit news and shoot commercials, breaking into the big time as chief editor of Woodstock. His first feature film was Who's That Knocking at My Door?, an autobiographical look at a youth 's rebellion against Church and family.
MEAN STREETS is a masterful blending of Scorsese 's professional and personal experiences, with a true movie lover's enthusiasm and judgement thrown in to really spark the show. The film opened last fall to praise at the New York Film Festival, and went on to a highly successful commercial run in New York. It was named "Best Film of the Year" by the New York Film Critic's Association, a newly-formed group of thirty two critics from college and underground papers. And! Everyone I know who has seen the film thinks it is terrific. Are you sold?
The young writer/director Scorsese is a success, a man generally respected as one of the major new directors, á la Peter Bogdanovitch. In interviews Scorsese comes across as a straightforward, thoughtful, and quite likeable man. I wish there were room here to reprint the entire interview James Delson did with him in Take One, the fine Canadian-based film magazine.
Scorsese and his friends are in the forefront of the movement towards independent and personalized film production. The $480,000 MEAN STREETS budget was raised by Producer Jonathon Taplin from "acquaintances" in Cleveland, after Hollywood studios turned down what seemed to them a bad movie. Scorsese said "The studio critiques were that it had a very bare story line and it was filled with digressions. They didn't understand that the digressions are what the film is all about. That's the way life is down there, it's digression. It's never really dealing with the realities of life. Nothing ever really happens, but when things do happen they happen like they happen in the film."
HOT MOVIE TIPS: Wednesday May 22 at Cinema Guild don't miss THE MASK OF FU MANCHU, with Boris Karloff as the Chinese Threat. Plus 4 Betty Boop Cartoons.
On a truly Ozonic Sunday we warmed up for the Commander Cody Concert with a hilarious batch of Popeye cartoons at the Cabaret Theatre in Southfield on 8 mile near Telegraph in the K Mart Shopping Center. We laughed our brains out, but I hate to say that the Cartoons end May 16. The show includes some fine Cab Calloway sequences and bizarro news footage as well. The Cartoons are in a distribution package touring the country, and hopefully they will make it to Ann Arbor. Worth a 50 mile drive. The Cabaret only costs $1 .00 and has a fine schedule of movies, which will be be printed in the Calendar of each issue of the SUN.