Scorsese’s Irishman: sad farewell to an era

When I finally got around to watching The Irishman, I had still been isolated from conventional and amateur critique about the film.

As a spectator, I formed the opinion pretty quickly that this was a love story. A salute to friendships between Hollywood legends who knew they might never work together again. Perhaps not even see each other again, all in the one place and time. And maybe it was also a tip of the hat to us, the audience, for making these artists into living legends, and coming back this one more time.

To put it another way, The Irishman is a gangster film the way Homer’s Odyssey is a gangster story. Or is the Odyssey a travelogue? Meaning that the Odyssey is both. And much more. Odysseus and his men were indeed roving bandits whose travels were recounted. There’s plenty of theft, murder, and gadding about the ancient world to lay it to waste. But along with it also comes a meditation on personal integrity, spirituality and the caprice of the gods (or fortune, as the case may be), on patriotism and duty as much as the lure of lust, gluttony, and narcissism.

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The Godfather (1972)


Judged by me as a landmark film, even if not quite for the same reasons it has won high praise for decades elsewhere.

I thought Mario Puzo’s novel, which I read before I saw the film the first time, was pretty lightweight, the language adding nothing to what seemed to be a pedestrian plot. Perhaps I need to re-read it, because the story I saw in the film was far from shallow.

Keeping in mind the era, and an unusually convincing portrayal of characters by a largely unknown cast, it was the deliberate, exquisite breach of one of Hollywood’s most hypocritical and senseless conventions that makes the film so extraordinary.

This convention is the rule that ‘bad guys’ can never succeed or be more than rakishly sympathetic. The Godfather’s son and successor, Michael Corleone (the then almost unknown Al Pacino), who develops into a ruthless killer, is portrayed as more than personable: he is admirable for his strength and courage.

Another convention to be broken was to never to bring into disrepute the American legal system or its enforcers, who are deliberately portrayed as avaricious, corrupt bit players on a stage dominated by the Mafia families that interact with the Corleones.

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