A piece on Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci, and what they've meant to the career of Martin Scorsese.
Whereas Hitch's film worked very loosely from the original novel, deftly weaving romantic comedy and social commentary into the suspenseful fabric, screenwriter Fiona Seres' take on the material focuses so intently on its "vanishing" that the tale becomes monotonous and too narrowly focused in its telling.
As a companion piece to our reassessment of "At Long Last Love," Peter Bogdanovich recalls the film's orgins, its forgotten pleasures, and the studio-mandated tinkering that turned it into a box office bomb. He also recalls turning down an offer of help from Gene Kelly, casting Burt Reynolds, and a remarkable encounter with Roger Ebert.
Peter Bogdanovich's movie musical "At Long Last Love" developed one of those reputations as a career-killing stinker, but in hindsight, it's a pretty darn good mix of 1930s tunes with the slightly more realist sensibility of later musicals. And it's a project with a crazy history. Now that it is out on Blu-Ray, it deserves another look.
[This was originally published at MSN Movies in 2006, but MSN has taken down their archives.]
"You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit, and you know it." -- Charlie (voiceover by Martin Scorsese) in "Mean Streets" (1973)
If I do bad things, am I a bad person? Can I be a good person despite the bad things I've done? Can I compensate for the sins I commit in one part of my life by doing good works in another? Is forgiveness possible? Is redemption achievable? Or does it even matter if there's not really anyone, or anything, watching over us and keeping track?
Those are some of the Catholic concerns that have preoccupied filmmaker Martin Scorsese throughout his career. His latest film [circa 2006], "The Departed," is based on "Infernal Affairs," a 2002 Hong Kong thriller directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, about two moles: an undercover cop who has infiltrated a criminal gang, and a crook who is embedded in the police department. So, who's the good guy and who's the bad guy? Frank Costello, the gangster kingpin played by Jack Nicholson, says: "Cops or criminals: When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" And what about when you're pointing one? In the cosmic sense, we're all facing that loaded gun, and brandishing one, every day. And the difference -- if there is any -- is what Scorsese makes his movies about.
Watching certain Scorsese pictures today ("Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "GoodFellas," "Casino" and others), you can appreciate the ways they both reflect and question the prevailing moral climate in early 21st-century America. It's a topsy-turvy universe in which the President of the United States himself insists that judgments about "goodness" and "badness" are not to be based upon actions, but are simply pre-existing existential conditions. Good or bad, right or wrong -- it just depends on which side you're on.
I met Martin Scorsese for the first time in 1969, when he was an editor on "Woodstock." He was one of the most intense people I'd ever known - a compact, nervous kid out of New York's Little Italy who'd made one feature film and had dreams of becoming a big-time director one day. It would take him five years.