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Mean Streets

MEAN STREETS



USA, 1973


Director: Martin Scorsese

Production: Taplin-Perry-Scorsese; Technicolor, 35mm; running time: 110 minutes. Released 1973. Filmed in New York City.


Producer: Jonathan T. Taplin; screenplay: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin; photography: Norman Gerard; editor: Sid Levin.

Cast: Harvey Keitel (Charlie); Robert De Niro (Johnny Boy); David Proval; Amy Robinson; Richard Romanus; Cesare Danova.


Publications


Books:

Jacobs, Diane, Hollywood Renaissance, New York, 1977.

Kolker, Robert Phillip, A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick,Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Oxford, 1980; revised edition, 1988.

Weiss, Ulli, Das neue Hollywood: Francis Ford Coppola, StevenSpielberg, Martin Scorsese, Munich, 1985.

Bliss, Michael, Martin Scorsese and Michael Cimino, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1986.

Arnold, Frank, and others, Martin Scorsese, Munich, 1986.

Cietat, Michel, Martin Scorsese, Paris, 1986.

Domecq, Jean-Philippe, Martin Scorsese: Un Rêve italo-américain, Renens, Switzerland, 1986.

Wood, Robin, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, New York, 1986.

Cameron-Wilson, James, The Cinema of Robert De Niro, London, 1986.

McKay, Keith, Robert De Niro: The Hero Behind the Masks, New York, 1986.

Weiss, Marian, Martin Scorsese: A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, 1987.

Lourdeaux, Lee, Italian and Irish Filmmakers in America: Ford,Capra, Coppola, and Scorsese, Philadelphia, 1990.

Connelly, Marie Katheryn, Martin Scorsese: An Analysis of HisFeature Films, With a Filmography of His Entire DirectorialCareer, Jefferson, 1993.

Bliss, Michael, The Word Made Flesh: Catholicism and Conflict inthe Films of Martin Scorsese, Lanham, 1995, 1998.

Friedman, Lawrence S., The Cinema of Martin Scorsese, New York, 1997.

Kelly, Mary P., Martin Scorsese: A Journey, New York, 1997.

Dougan, Andy, Martin Scorsese -Close Up: The Making of HisMovies, New York, 1998.

Brunette, Peter, editor, Martin Scorsese: Interviews, Jackson, 1999.

Grist, Leighton, The Films of Martin Scorsese, 1963–1977: Authorship and Context, New York, 2000.

Articles:

Films in Review (New York), November 1973.

Ney, J., in Inter/View (New York), November 1973.

Delson, J., in Take One (Montreal), November 1973.

Denby, David, "Mean Streets: The Sweetness of Hell," in Sight andSound (London), Winter 1973–74.

Rubenstein, L., in Cineaste (New York), no. 2, 1974.

Bobrow, A. C., "The Filming of Mean Streets," in FilmmakersNewsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), January 1974.

Stein, J., in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1974.

Gow, Gordon, in Films and Filming (London), May 1974.

Macklin, F. A., "It's a Personal Thing for Me," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1975.

"Scorsese Seminar" in Dialogue on Film (Beverly Hills), April 1975.

Henry, M., "La Passion de Saint Martin Scorsese," in Positif (Paris), June 1975.

Beylie, Claude, in Ecran (Paris), July-August 1975.

Lindberg, I., in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), no. 131, 1976.

Turroni, G., in Filmcritica (Rome), January-February 1976.

Hosman, H., in Skoop (Amsterdam), February-March 1976.

Rinaldi, G., in Cineforum (Bergamo), March 1976.

Renaud, T., in Cinéma (Paris), July 1976.

Eder, K., "Rebel Heroes der 70er Jahre: Kontaktlos und Gewalttätig: Zu zwei Filmen von Martin Scorsese," in Medium (Frankfurt), July 1976.

Cros, J. L., in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), October 1976.

Jansen, P. W., "Eastside Story: Hexenkessel von Martin Scorsese," in Film und Ton (Munich), December 1976.

Hermann, R., in Cinemonkey (Portland, Oregon), no. 4, 1979.

Walsh, Michael, "Slipping into Darkness: Figures of Waking in Cinema," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 5, no. 4, 1983.

Bruce, Bryan, "Martin Scorsese: Five Films," in Movie (London), Winter 1986.

Lane, J., "Martin Scorsese and the Documentary Impulse," in Framework (London), no. 1, 1991.

Sitney, P. A., "Cinematic Election and Theological Vanity," in Raritan (New Brunswick, New Jersey), no. 2, 1991.

Librach, R. S., "The Last Temptation in Mean Streets and RagingBull," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 1, 1992.

Hosney, J., and others, "The Passion of St. Charles: Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets," in South Atlantic Quarterly (Durham, North Carolina), no. 2, 1992.

Thompson, David, "Harvey Keitel: Staying Power: Interview with Harvey Keitel," in Sight & Sound (London), vol. 3, no. 1, January 1993.

Penman, Ian, "Juke-Box and Johnny Boy: Music in Martin Scorsese's Film Mean Streets," in Sight & Sound (London), vol. 3, no. 4, April 1993.

McGreal, Jill, "Mean Streets," in Sight & Sound (London), vol. 3, no. 4, April 1993.

Clements, Marcelle, "Martin Scorsese's Mortal Sins," in Esquire, vol. 120, no. 5, November 1993.

Chanko, Kenneth M., "Martin Scorsese," in Films in Review (New York), vol. 44, no. 11–12, November-December 1993.

Maxfield, James F., "'The Worst Part': Martin Scorsese's MeanStreets," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 23, no. 4, October 1995.

Morrison, S., "La haine, Fallen Angels and Some Thoughts on Scorsese's Children," in CineAction (Toronto), vol. 39, 1995.

Scorsese, Martin, "De Niro and moi," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 500, March 1996.

Blake, Richard A., "Redeemed in Blood: The Sacramental Universe of Martin Scorsese," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), vol. 24, no. 1, Spring 1996.

Hampton, Howard, "Scorpio Descending: In Search of Rock Cinema," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 33, no. 2, March-April 1997.

Taubin, A., "The Old 'Hood," in Village Voice (New York), vol. 43, 17 March 1998.

Conn, Andrew Lewis, "The Adolescents of Martin Scorsese: The Drama of the Gifted Child," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 34, no. 3, May-June 1998.


* * *

Mean Streets is the film that established director Martin Scorsese's reputation, and it is often considered his most personal and emblematic work. In comparison with his later films, however, Mean Streets seems more like a rough sketch (both thematically and stylistically) than a fully-realized achievement, despite the film's distinction when viewed as an isolated work.

At the centre of Mean Streets is Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Of all of Scorsese's male protagonists he is arguably the least mentally unstable and the least prone to movement and action. Like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Charlie's responses to his surroundings are so internalized that the film must utilize devices like voice-over monologues and subjective slow-motion shots in order to clarify those responses. But unlike Travis (or even unlike Ellen Burnstyn's Alice), there is no point in the film at which Charlie is jolted out of his inactive state. While the protagonists of Scorsese's later films almost continually create the action and upheaval that set in motion and propel forward the narrative, Charlie remains in an almost constant state of indecision and stasis, as does the movement of the narrative in Mean Streets.

It is the presence of Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) that suggests Scorsese's later protagonists with their propensity towards emotional and physical violence that they are unable to fully comprehend. In Scorsese's collaborations with De Niro after Mean Streets the two men were able to fuse the masochistic Charlie with the violent, inarticulate Johnny Boy. But in Mean Streets Johnny Boy's almost total inarticulateness results in his being slightly displaced from the center of the narrative by his more "normal" friend Charlie, even though Johnny Boy's accumulated actions lead to the shoot-out on Charlie, Theresa and himself.

The shoot-out itself leaves the unanswered question whether Charlie will ever become active rather than (essentially) passive. In all of Scorsese's subsequent narrative films, the extremely violent and/or emotional upheavals that serve as a climax have a kind of cleansing effect, unleashing all of the psychological problems, the private demons, of the main characters. Nevertheless, the epilogues in each of these post-Mean Streets films tend to re-state the essential problems of the characters, giving an impression of apparent unity and order precariously on the brink of collapsing once again and thus denying any "true" catharsis. Mean Streets simply ends with the shoot-out, an act of violence perpetrated not by the central characters but on them, with Scorsese playing their would-be assassin, ending the film on a note of total disorder. Charlie, with a confused and uncertain future before him, is essentially the "hero" of an extraordinary work-in-progress.

—Joseph McElhaney

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