Late this afternoon the legendary Martin Scorsese sat for a mostly French-language q & a today following a Director’s Fortnight screening of Mean Streets. The questions were almost entirely about the genesis and making of this 1973 classic. Scorsese recalled his Little Italy upbringing in the ’50s and early ’60s, and the crackling atmosphere of the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, where Mean Streets premiered and actually got booed by some.
The healthy-looking 75 year-old (who again was wearing violet socks) mentioned that the troubled bond between Harvey Keitel‘s Charley and Robert De Niro‘s Johnny Boy is based on the relationship between Scorsese’s dad and his nee’er-do-well younger brother. Scorsese also recalled the real-life influence of a man of the cloth, a kind of “street priest” who counselled him during his early-to-mid-teen years.
But all this fell by the wayside when Scorsese mentioned that his forthcoming The Irishman, a $180 million gangster flick funded mostly by Netflix, contains about “300 scenes.”
Right away I leaned forward and wondered if I’d just heard that. Because 300 scenes could translate into a helluva running time, perhaps as long as 450 minutes or 7 hours and 30 minutes. I asked Scorsese’s rep for a confirmation or clarification, but heard zip. Then an Associated Press story run by The New York Times reported the “300 scenes” quote, and I knew I hadn’t been hearing things.
In other words (and I’m just spitballing here) The Irishman could wind up as an expanded Netlix miniseries in addition to being shown as a shorter theatrical feature. Who knows? I know that a film with 300 scenes will definitely be a bear, length-wise. Too much of a bear for theatres, in fact, if Scorsese intends to use all or most of that footage.
The average scene used to last two minutes, give or take. But scenes today are shorter, or roughly a page and a half or 90 seconds per scene. By this standard a typical two-hour movie might contain 75 to 90 scenes. If the scenes last 90 seconds a film with 75 scenes would run 112 minutes; if the scenes number 90 the running time would be 135 minutes without credits.
If, let’s say, Scorsese does some seriously heavy trimming, The Irishman could end up with 200 scenes or a running time of 300 minutes (again based on the 90-second-per-scene scenario). But if he doesn’t heavily trim The Irishman and includes all 300 scenes, it could run as long as 450 minutes.
Again, my guess is that Scorsese and Netflix may be contemplating releasing a theatrical version of, say, 120 to 150 minutes, along with a Netflix-only miniseries version lasting seven hours plus.
Why would Scorsese mention during a press event that he’s working with 300 scenes if he’s not at least trying to use all the material that he has?
The Irishman, a real-life saga of Jimmy Hoffa’s assassin, costars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano.
Seated on a small couch, Scorsese was surrounded by four questioners including director Jacques Audiard. The conversation moved at a snail’s pace with an interpreter having to translate the French-language questions for Scorsese, etc. The chat was pleasant enough but I was dying in the balcony, sitting in a hard seat with zero leg room and coping with a pair of not-comfy-enough shoes. After 45 minutes I couldn’t take it any more. My tendons were screaming.