Elusive magic

Reading reviews of Scorsese’s latest movie, The Irishman, has been interesting. Many reviews have been rapturous, and others, pretty meh. I guess that’s a good summary of society today.

I watched it the other week. I enjoyed it well enough. He’s been doing it long enough that Scorsese couldn’t make a dud movie if he tried, and this was perfectly shot and crafted with the usual Scorsese efficiency. It was an easy and relatively interesting watch, but I also thought it was pretty forgettable.

A part of that is that it’s another gangster movie not unlike a half dozen movies much the same – and some of them by Scorsese. This is an old trope for him, his favourite genre at a guess, and he’s made some real crackers. In a way, this is a cracker too, but the edge is taken off that by familiarity.

One of the controversial aspects of the movie on release was the technology used to artificially make the characters younger for the early stages of the story. For example, instead of another actor standing in for the younger ‘Irishman’, it was Robert De Niro who played the character as usual, and then back in the editing suite, they took his performance and by voodoo or magic or whatever it is, made him younger – smoothed out his wrinkles maybe, darkened his hair, etc. I’m not sure it was altogether successful, though it’s a good gimmick.

I found myself being distracted by it for the first half of the movie. I wasn’t convinced the characters looked as young as they were said to be, but it was how they moved and held themselves that really sidetracked me. I’d never thought about it before, but watching the movie I realised that old people move differently to younger people. De Niro is a fair age now and no matter how good an actor he is that’s not something he could simulate.

It wasn’t just him, but as he was in just about every scene it most obvious in his performance. Older people settle into patterns of movement different from when they were young and spry. A bit more hunched maybe, more of a shuffle than a stride, even the way they hold their head. I guess that’s inevitable as aches and pains catch up with you, but it’s jarring to see it in characters supposedly much younger than that. And I guess there’s no magic for that.

Overall, a very competent movie. All of it is convincing, the actors are great, the set-pieces spot on, the mood just right. And it addresses the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, which is one of those urban mysteries. It’s just that we’ve seen these wise guys before and even if it isn’t cliché there’s little really to surprise. Entertaining, yes, memorable, not so sure.

While I’m here, I gotta say I agree 100% with Scorsese and his comments about the genre of movies epitomised by Marvel. I don’t mind them, but I don’t go out of my way to watch them. I find them a little dull and formulaic, but inoffensive. His comments, I thought were perceptive and unusually intelligent, and as I read them, I nodded my head to each point. Why he watched movies is the same reason I chose to, and his love for them comes from the same place as does for me. He’s an auteur, and his opinion shouldn’t be surprising – though, typically, they drew criticism. I’m not an auteur, but I come from that angle, which is why I write. The magic is in the journey.

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