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« Middleburg Film Festival will honor Terence Blanchard and open with "Marriage Story"| Main| Links: Joker, Spidey, Clint, Kristen, and more »
Friday
Sep 27 2019

NYFF: "The Irishman"

杰森·亚当斯reporting on the opening night of the New York Film Festival

A camera stalks through the hallways of what we typically call an Old Folks Home.Old Folks.Ever think about that phrase?Disarming in its literal folksiness -- it's in truth a place where the day breaks are taken to pick out caskets.So the camera tracks through the Old Folks Home like so many cameras have tracked through Martin Scorsese's so many movies -- through the nightclubs inGoodfellasand the trading rooms and offices inThe Wolf of Wall Street, the muddy mountain sides ofSilence.We have walked with this man's camera through space and time together and now here we are, all of us Old Folks, stalking one another down antiseptic corridors on shaky wheels.

The camera comes to rest on Robert De Niro, as it must.De Niro looks old -- older than the actor looks right now in real life, and older than his character Frank Sheeran will look for the majority ofThe Irishmanthanks to the (occasionally spotty) state of the art technology that will pinken his cheeks and taut up his neck flesh as the tale he starts to tell us winds us back, way back in time...

Across decades and crimes, wars international and local, and the fates written across every man's face.Literally that is, as Scorsese keeps pausing the movie to tell us how a random man will die -- often violently, sometimes not, but always off there in the distance, a cancerous speck on the horizon looming ever larger.

This is not there and back again -- like the road-trip that frames Sheeran's story and like that too supple skin, up and down and back to front, time elasticizes.It slows, and snaps.There are a lot of cigarette breaks on the path to where we're going.Time's on everybody's mind -- it's been one of the big subjects of conversation ever sinceThe Irishman's runtime of two-hundred-plus minutes was announced -- for the record this thing flies, until it purposefully doesn't want to fly anymore.But Time in turn, with its myriad small betrayals -- that goddamn Bursitis -- reveals itself to be the most explicit subject of Scorsese's film.

When we first flash-back to a somewhat youthful and very much rosy-cheeked Sheeran, a spring in his step, Scorsese simply crosses the road -- the Old Folks look across the street and there they are, younger things.There have been a lot of streets, mean or otherwise, in Scorsese movies, but the expressways ofThe Irishmantie knots around it;somebody's always driving some place, and the conversations and decisions made in these cars form the shapes of the lives therein.During one pivotal ride we spend so long listening to the men talk about a fish that the fish clearly stops being just a fish -- it becomes The Fish, and we the ferrymen riding along the river just above it, to and fro our fates.

In other wordsThe Irishmanis an All American epic that gains its import from its accumulation of seconds and minutes and years -- those tracking shots turned to myth, and we, a country of endless highways stretched end to end, always ending somewhere, on some face.Those roads wind on and tighten, carving scars and deep crags across its folks, older by the minute -- stone quarries, canyons, deeper every day, as the rivers trickle and come to a stop.It's about learning who a person is by cutting off their exits -- all the Copacabanas and all of the gin joints and all of the movies in the world, every possibility, and it all comes down to this.An old man sitting alone telling stories to a blank screen before him, with the door half cracked.

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Reader Comments (28)

Thanks for the soliloquy.How was the actual story?Is this a pointless narrative?

September 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterM

这是一个评估吗?反映吗?日记帐分录吗?

September 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterZach

M: I think the implication is this might be Scorsese's best long movie to date, closer to Once Upon a Time in America 2 than Goodfellas 3 (Casino would be Goodfellas 2), Wolf of Wall Street 2 or Gangs of New York 2.If I'm off base on that guess, Jason, feel free to correct.

September 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Nice piece.Very French.If people want hot takes on the film, they can get those from Twitter.

September 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniella Isaacs

Seems like another "epic" elegiac work to go along with Tarantino's film this year.Nicely evocative review.

September 27, 2019 | 乔纳森

M and Zach are ass-hats.Go to Twitter.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Rating, quality of performances,Oscar chances?Sounds like Paquin won’t get in the way of perennial of my heart, Bates.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I read a few reviews ofThe Irishmanwith critics divided who is the film's MVP.Some say this is De Niro's best in years (which is not saying much considering the roles he accepted recently);Pacino has the bravura part where he inhabits Hoffa's manic energy perfectly that's just not actorly tic;and Pesci whose quiet performance is the one true thing in Scorsese's latest.

All the reviews said this is career-best Scorsese.I am one of the few who never forgot the first Scorsese I saw and that remains my favorite:The Last Temptation of Christ

The role of Peggy Sheeran was played as a young adult and mature version by Anna Paquin.All the reviews said her performance is all internalised emotion.She conveys much by not saying much.Maybe she can be in contention?But then again we also have other superb supporting turns from actresses in mostly subtitled films.Will they once again be ignored?

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

I don't want to be that guy, but Jason clearly needed more time before writing the review.What about a second try, more objective?(Please, I don't want to be harsh.Read this with a nice voice in your head)

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Thanks for the tip, Ian.Class act.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterZach

A beautiful review.Makes me excited for a film that I originally wasn't that interested in.An elegy for time?I'm in.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I know absolutely nothing from JA's review except people get old even De Niro,nothing on the performances,the music,the production design,the story,Anna Paquin's daughter character,how well the de againg works,the editing.

This was like the opening to a chapter in a great novel.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

When I tweeted out this review last night at 8pm when the embargo broke there were about thirty other reviews popping up at exactly that moment.I read several of them and they all talked about the plot, the acting, the Oscar chances, the production design and the music.That's fine, I suppose we need to hear about all of that, but do we need to hear about that fifty times?

I try to do something different -- I try to write about movies in a different way.I'm not trying to be pretentious or say my writing's any better than anybody else, or even that my approach is better.I know sometimes I fly right off the page into a lot of overheated yammer.It's just the internet is so clotted with that same stuff this is the only way I can write that I have managed to make it interesting for myself.And occasionally somebody else.

Anyway I've been writing for a very long time and I feel confident in the voice I've eked out.I like my writing -- I love this piece and am proud of it.I know it's not a lot of people's cuppa but this piece here took several drafts -- I'm not just barfing this stuff out unedited.I think my approach is usually met with the most resistance when it comes up against a movie that nobody's seen yet, one with lots of expectations -- I do think my pieces come together better once the reader has already seen a film.Once you do you'll see that this piece actually talks about a lot of specifics -- I just try to dissolve them all down into a feeling, a fever sorta kinda.

Anyway one probably shouldn't need to say this much about their writing for people to "get it" and I get it.It's a constant push and pull when I write to find that sweet spot and sometimes it works, sometimes it don't.I just don't understand the desire to have every piece written be exactly the same, to hit the same notes and follow the exact same structure.Let's be adventurous every so often.

Everybody's good, Pesci the best I think, and Paquin's barely in it.It's a Martin Scorsese movie.The crafts are all top notch.It will be nominated for lots of little statues.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJason

For what it's worth Jason, that's exactly the feeling I got.But current approach to film criticism basically feels like the last paragraph of your response (can I tell from your review how many oscar nominations it's going to get.).我不喜欢这种风格的批评,但是我性病ll like this review.I look forward to revisiting it after I've seen the movie.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

@Jason.Thank you.This is the Kind of criticism I apreciate: Opening doors to a film and to thoughts!

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFilmarbeiter

Jason, you're one of my favorite film writers on the internet *because* you put so much thought into film writing as a work itself, rather than something I'm just supposed to consume.Don't get me wrong, I (like most people who read this site, I assume?) love the Oscars, but I love movies even more, and I want to read about how they move in the world and how they work on the people that see them more than I want to read about Oscar odds.(And really, 'rapturously reviewed Scorsese epic starring acting greats' is not an Oscar puzzle that I desperately need someone to solve for me.)
You're not wrong--your approach probably isn't for everyone.But it's certainly for me, and I'm always happy to read it.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

Nice piece jason
I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this
And yes we do need different kind of reviews!

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAmirfarhang

Jason, a beautiful approach to film criticism and this particular movie.Love it.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Beautifully written Jason.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

I like Jason’s writing and I’m a fan of MNPP

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Jason, you keep doing what you are doing.Been a fan for several years now.Your writing is smart and evocative.

September 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I love this review, it tells me something about why the movie exists, and what it will feel like to see it.It reminds me of that Roger Ebert quote "a movie isn't about what it's about, it's about how it's about what it's about."

September 29, 2019 | 丽贝卡

It’s a swing and a miss, maybe a little subliminally pretentious for this “piece”, but not horrible.Never shut yourself off from valid constructive criticism.It can be tough, but if you want to reach your best, it’s a must.

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJust a tip

It’s a sad world we live in when one can write a review this quietly and lushly evocative and get shat on for it.By all means, Jason, continue to articulate your thoughts with such finesse.Your intentions were clear to me, and I find it refreshing to not be greeted with yet another plot synopsis / awards prognostication masquerading as a review.I know where to find those if I need them (since Google is free, assholes).

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

@Rebecca, exactly!I thought of Roger Ebert, and I thought of Pauline Kael, who once said that the best film reviews should be about the "experience" of the movie, and I think Jason conveyed that beautifully.Which is why ...M and Zach are "ass-hats," and far from the classy act one of them wants me to be.

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Just call it a mood piece on The Irishman, or something more accurate.“Reporting” kind of implies more actual information on the film.You should be proud of your writing, but labelling it as something it’s not will bring reasonable valid constructive criticism.Unless you’re being disingenuous, as a couple commenters also seem to be.

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterObjective bunny

It seems like you enjoyed the movie at least somewhat and are recommending it?

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

I don't get the need to knock someone's writing, especially on a site where people are volunteering their time, unpaid, to share their thoughts and feelings about films with us.Just because someone writes doesn't mean they want or need unsolicited feedback about their writing from strangers.

Anyway, this film was not really on my radar but now it is.I am looking forward to seeing it.

September 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

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