Last night a reader from Australia sent me a video file of Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones‘ A Letter To Elia, which I wrote about yesterday. While talking about his initial reactions to On The Waterfront when he was 11 or 12, Scorsese mentions the beefy, weather-worn, working-class faces of the longshoremen in that film, and how he recognized this same coarseness from his own Little Italy neighborhood of the ’40s and ’50s.
There are several shots of similar-type faces in The Irishman — fleshy, primitive-looking mugs with incurious, steer-like eyes and slicked-back hair…faces that never would’ve fit in among the sophisticated, well-dressed smart set of any time period. Vaguely brutalist features, a little on the grotesque side, even gargoyle-ish. Faces with the same distinctive characteristics — half-ugly, half-creepy — that Federico Fellini used for Fellini Satyricon (’69). Okay, Fellini was a bit more extreme in this regard, but he was operating out of the same general ballpark.
That’s more or less the idea I’m trying to convey here…a similar stevedore aesthetic…the same servings of the same kind of genetic tendencies in On The Waterfront, Fellini Satyrican, Goodfellas,The Irishmen, et. al.