Apr 29, 2015


'As hedonistic a picture about a life of crime as has ever been committed to film, it is not about guilt, or male angst, or Catholicism — or any of the themes that cross-hatched his work in the seventies. It doesn't tell us that crime doesn't pay, or that it is morally wrong. Instead, it tells us what gangster pictures had been trying to tell us since the days of Cagney but didn’t quite have the guts to spell out. “Goodfellas” tells us that crime is fun—enormous, outsized, XXL-fur-coat, spending-spree-with-a-cherry-on-top-style fun. The fun doesn’t last forever—as addicts like to say, first it’s fun, then its fun with problems, then it’s just problems—but who said fun would last forever? That’s precisely what makes it fun. The disastrous original test screening in Orange county, from which 70 people walked out, feels like a report from another country, or even planet: Orange County is blue-rinse central. These days, “Goodfellas” plays more like a much-loved comedy or musical. The audience at the Beacon theatre   cheered Hill’s opening monologue  (“For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster….”), roared at certain musical cues like Sound of Music enthusiasts, and applauded Joe Pesci’s head-spinning series of fake-outs at the Copacabana (“Funny how?”), murmuring his lines along with him, as if repeating Abbott and Costello’s “who’s on first” routine.   Goodfellas” may not be Scorsese’s greatest film—that title still belongs to one or other of Scorsese’s two great deep-bore character studies with de Niro, “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bill”—but it is his most enjoyable, and marks his most ebullient performance as a director, a full polyphonic work out for all the stylistic felicities he had enjoyed as a documentary filmmaker and student of the New Wave — multiple narrators, virtuoso tracking shots, freeze-frames. He’s showing off, to be sure, but that’s what the film is about: sprezzatura, peacock display, plumage.' 
— from my piece about Goodfellas 25th anniversary for Intelligent Life

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