- Mean Streets
Mean Streets Directed by Martin Scorsese Produced by Martin Scorsese
Written by Screenplay:
Narrated by Martin Scorsese Starring Harvey Keitel
Robert De Niro
Cinematography Kent L. Wakefield Editing by Sidney Levin Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) October 14, 1973 Running time 112 min. Country United States Language English, Italian Budget US$500,000 (est.)
Mean Streets is a 1973 drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Scorsese and Mardik Martin. The film stars Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. It was released by Warner Bros. on October 2, 1973. De Niro won the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as John "Johnny Boy" Civello.
Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is a young Italian-American man who is trying to move up in the local New York mafia but is hampered by his feeling of responsibility towards his reckless friend, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), a small-time gambler who owes money to many loan sharks. Charlie works for his uncle, Giovanni (Cesare Danova), the local caporegime, mostly collecting debts. He is also having a hidden affair with Johnny Boy's cousin, Teresa (Amy Robinson), who has epilepsy and is ostracized because of her condition — especially by Charlie's uncle. Charlie is torn between his devout Catholicism and his mafia ambitions. As the film progresses, Johnny becomes increasingly self-destructive, growing continually more disrespectful of his creditors. Failing to receive redemption in the church, Charlie seeks it through sacrificing himself on Johnny's behalf. At a bar, a local loan shark named Michael (Richard Romanus), comes looking for Johnny to "pay up"; but to his surprise, Johnny insults him calling him a "jerkoff". The loan shark lunges at Johnny who retaliates by pulling a gun on him. Charlie and Johnny flee from the scene with Teresa and are pursued by the loan shark and his henchman, who shoots Charlie in the hand and Johnny in the neck, causing the car to crash. The film ends with an ambulance arriving at the scene and paramedics taking them away.
- Harvey Keitel as Charlie
- Robert De Niro as Johnny Boy
- David Proval as Tony
- Amy Robinson as Teresa
- Richard Romanus as Michael
- Cesare Danova as Giovani
- Victor Argo as Mario
- George Memmoli as Joey
- Lenny Scaletta as Jimmy
- Jeannie Bell as Diane
- Murray Mosten as Oscar
- David Carradine as Drunk
- Robert Carradine as Boy With Gun
- Lois Walden as Jewish Girl
- Harry Northup as Soldier
Apart from his student film project Who's That Knocking at My Door and Boxcar Bertha, a directing project given him by early independent maverick Roger Corman, this was Scorsese's first feature film of his own design. Director John Cassavetes told him after he completed Boxcar Bertha: "You’ve just spent a year of your life making a piece of shit." This inspired Scorsese to make a film about his own experiences. Mean Streets was based on actual events Scorsese saw almost regularly while growing up in Little Italy.
The screenplay for the movie initially began as a continuation of the characters in Who's That Knocking. Scorsese changed the title from Season of the Witch to Mean Streets, a reference to Raymond Chandler's essay "The Simple Art of Murder", where he writes, "But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." Scorsese sent the script to Corman, who agreed to back the film if all the characters were black. Scorsese was anxious to make the film so he considered this option, but actress Verna Bloom arranged a meeting with potential financial backer, Jonathan Taplin, who was the road manager for the musical group, The Band. Taplin liked the script and was willing to raise the $300,000 budget that Scorsese wanted if Corman promised, in writing, to distribute the film.
According to Scorsese, the first draft of Mean Streets focused on Charlie's religious conflict and its effect on his worldview. Along with fellow writer Mardik Martin, Scorsese wrote the whole script while driving around Little Italy in Martin's car. They would find a spot in the neighborhood to park and begin writing, all the while immersed in the sights, and sounds of what would eventually appear on-screen.
Once the financing was in place, Scorsese began to recruit his cast. De Niro had met the director in 1972 and liked what he had seen in Who's That Knocking at My Door. De Niro was impressed with how the film had so accurately captured life in Little Italy; De Niro had grown up on Bleecker Street, the northern boundary of Little Italy at the time. Scorsese offered the actor four different roles, but he could not decide which one he wanted to portray. After another actor dropped out of the project, Scorsese cast Harvey Keitel in the pivotal role of Charlie. Keitel was also responsible for convincing De Niro to play Johnny Boy. Scorsese himself plays the gunman who shoots at Charlie and Johnny Boy from Michael's car.
The film was well received by most critics; some even hailed it as one of the most original American films of all time. Pauline Kael was among the most enthusiastic critics; she called it "a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking" and "dizzyingly sensual". Other critics like Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said "the acting and editing have such original, tumultuous force that the picture is completely gripping". Vincent Canby of the New York Times reflected that "no matter how bleak the milieu, no matter how heartbreaking the narrative, some films are so thoroughly, beautifully realized they have a kind of tonic effect that has no relation to the subject matter". One of Scorsese's most consistent supporters, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote that "In countless ways, right down to the detail of modern TV crime shows, Mean Streets is one of the source points of modern movies." Time Out magazine called it "One of the best American films of the decade". Currently the movie has a 98% "certified fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 45 reviews.
Home video releases
- ^ Brown, Mick (March 7, 2010). "Martin Scorsese interview for Shutter Island". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmmakersonfilm/7366950/Martin-Scorsese-interview-for-Shutter-Island.html.
- ^ Kael, Pauline (1991). 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Holt Paperbacks. p. 473. ISBN 0-8050-1367-9.
- ^ Mean Streets. The Chicago Reader
- ^ Canby, Vincent. Oct. 3, 1973. Movie review - Mean Streets (1973) The New York Times
- ^ Mean Streets :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies Chicago Sun-Times
- ^ Mean Streets (1973) Time Out London
- ^ Mean Streets (1973) Rotten Tomatoes
- ^ http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Mean-Streets-Blu-ray/20091/
- Mean Streets at the Internet Movie Database
- Mean Streets at AllRovi
- Mean Streets at the TCM Movie Database
- Mean Streets at Rotten Tomatoes
Martin Scorsese filmography 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010sShutter Island (2010) • Hugo (2011) Short filmsWhat's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963) • It's Not Just You, Murray! (1964) • The Big Shave (1967) • Bad (1987) • Life Lessons (1989) • Made in Milan (1990) • The Key to Reserva (2007) DocumentariesStreet Scenes (1970) • Italianamerican (1974) • American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (1978) • The Last Waltz (1978) • A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) • My Voyage to Italy (1999) • The Blues: Feel Like Going Home (2003) • No Direction Home (2005) • Shine a Light (2008) • A Letter to Elia (2010) • Public Speaking (2010) • George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) Produced
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