In a 2.8 interview with Yahoo Movies UK contributor Sam Ashurst, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, known primarily for her decades-long association with Martin Scorsese, offered two stand-out remarks about Scorsese’s The Irishman. One confused me; the other led to vague despair.
I’m not talking about Schoonmaker discussing the strategy of de-aging the actors (Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci), which has been known for some time.
“We’re youthifying the actors in the first half of the movie,” she said. “And then the second half of the movie they play their own age. We’ve only been able to screen for very few people, [but] nobody minds watching them play young, because they’re gripped. The characters are so strong, it doesn’t matter — it’s really funny. [But] I don’t know what it’s going to be like when we get it all — that’s the risk.”
What confused me was Schoonmaker saying that Scorsese’s The Irishman is “episodic” but not “narrative.”
Schoonmaker: “It’s a different kind of movie — it’s episodic, it’s not narrative. When you do a narrative film, you’re always saying, ‘Oh well, you know, we could slim that down, we could move the shot, maybe we should integrate that, maybe we should flashback with that.’ That’s not the way this movie is. It’s very different. You will see. It’s extremely different and it really works, which is very exciting.”
Could it be “episodic” in the vein of The Godfather, Part II? That 1974 film didn’t use anyone’s idea of a conventional narrative either as it kept hopping back and forth between the late ’50s and the late teens and early ’20s.
Thelma seems to be sidestepping an observation I’ve recently read, which is that The Irishman is an old man’s film….an “end of the road” movie about looking back with melancholy and reflecting on mistakes and lost opportunities.
The Schoonmaker quote that upset me: “The Irishman is not Goodfellas. And that’s what they think it’s going to be. It’s not. It is not Goodfellas. It’s completely different. It’s wonderful. They’re going to love it. But please don’t think it’s gonna be Goodfellas, because it isn’t.”
When Thelma says “not Goodfellas“, she presumably means an absence of the usual boppituh-beep. Nefarious wise guys committing crimes and wearing over-emphatic clothing and betraying their wives and each other and storing mink coats in the freezer and whacking each other in the back seats of cars…right?
But how in the name of St. Christopher could Scorsese make a movie about the guy who killed Jimmy Hoffa (De Niro’s Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran) and which is wall-to-wall with Italian mob characters whose names end in vowels (Russell Bufalino, Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio, Joe “Crazy Joe” Gallo, Bill Bufalino, Angelo Bruno, Tony Provenzano, Anthony Salerno)…how could a movie like this not resemble Goodfellas? I’ve seen set photos of a dark-haired DeNiro pistol-whipping and kicking the shit out of guys so Thelma is obviously avoiding certain aspects.
So what does she mean, that it’s not going to have that familiar Scorsese goombah gangster flavor? No baked ziti, no sliced garlic, no Italian sausage, no girlfriends or wives with borough accents, quirky personalities and too much eye makeup?