Scorsese announced his music-infused (Ronettes! Rolling Stones!), superbly crafted style to many with 1973′s Mean Streets, his third feature. Harvey Keitel had previously starred in Scorsese’s 1967′s Who’s That Knocking At My Door, an ultra-low budget sort of prequel to Mean Streets, shot in black & white and in a frenzied, heavily verite-influenced style. Keitel plays different characters (he’s ‘Charlie’ here and ‘J.R.’ in Knocking) but they have similar attitudes and personal conflicts, with women and with their Catholic faiths (“You don’t pay for your sins in Church, you do it in the streets, you do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it” – the film’s opening lines). Certainly Scorsese sees part of himself in them. There’s a physicality to Scorsese’s best work. This is one of the many superb sequences.The last shot is subjective filmmaking on an insanely creative level (the camera’s buzzed).
Mean Streets private party: SHOT SEQUENCE
* lovely verite-like hand held shallow depth of field close-up of a woman using a table candle to light a smoke, amidst streamers.
* as if a clip culled from tons of footage, this is a quick snippet that suggests this type of behavior has been going on for some time: a low angle shot of Charlie and several others at a table, looking trashed.
* slow motion: a bouncer flips a flashlight in his hand. What does the cut imply? It may anticipate the lunacy about to occur – this bouncer is like a outsider (audience member?) watching the scene from some other dimension.
* Charlie up on the bar in longshot, hitting shot glasses with a pool cue, a friendly ice and water fight is breaking out.
* the scene continues from farther back (the only conventional cut) and plays out over some time, with ice being thrown and Charlie grabbing the drink hose and spraying everybody. A guy jumps up on the bar and the camera shakes (this is a movie where people frequently jump up on things – there’s also the “What’s a mook?” scene, where fighting occurs on top of the pool tables).
* Slow motion shot: Michael (Richard Romanus) exhales smoke rings. This type of small bad ass moment can be seen in many Scorsese films (think of De Niro’s Jimmy Conway at the bar in GoodFellas) and note also all the use of red in this scene in general. Much of Mean Streets and also Taxi Driver is red. Not to mention Bringing Out the Dead. Even in the black & white Raging Bull he snuck a little red in.
* Hand held – Tony tells Michael to play “only old ones” on the jukebox.
* The drunk shot: almost a minute and a half of Charlie’s last party moments, up to the point where he ends up on the floor. That hangover is not gonna be fun… The music is The Chips‘ “Rubber Biscuit.”