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Late Dialogues

Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973)

Maybe it’s coincidence, and maybe not, but this week has seen a good number of conversations with filmmakers getting on in years. But there’s also a great talk here with Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who’ll turn a relatively spritely forty-five in December, as well as a fresh call for a renewal in the way we watch and think about movies.

  • There’ll be encore screenings all weekend, but the New York Film Festival officially wraps today with Michael Mann’s Ferrari. Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri talks with the eighty-year-old director (and novelist) about his portrait of the racing legend and entrepreneur played by Adam Driver, and also about several of Mann’s other films, including his first theatrical feature. In Thief (1981), James Caan plays Frank, a safecracker preparing to pull off one last heist. “What’s driving Frank is Karl Marx’s labor theory of value,” says Mann. “I saw one of the writers walking around during the Hollywood strike recently with that quote from Thief on a placard—‘I can see my money is still in your pocket, which is from the yield of my labor’—which I was very complimented by.”

  • Surveying several NYFF highlights in the New York Times, Beatrice Loayza issues a call for an end to “the tyranny of ‘story.’ In Hollywood these days, ‘story’ and ‘storyteller’ are privileged terms, seemingly interchangeable with ‘films’ and anyone who makes them—a distressing development considering the medium’s wild range of possibilities . . . To think of, say, a full-body sensory experience like Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest as merely a story about a Nazi family; or Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, which consists of lush memory fragments, as merely a story about a Black woman’s coming-of-age, would feel dismissive of the filmmakers’ full intentions.”

  • Interview has given us two terrific pairings this week. Richard Linklater, who’s evidently aiming to shoot a movie in Paris—and in French—swaps stories with Gregg Araki, who recalls that back in the 1980s, “My reason for living was doing these fucking movies.” Ryusuke Hamaguchi tells playwright Jeremy O. Harris that when he first read Chekhov’s plays, “it was as if I was being punched by every single word,” but “I would say that my true sensibilities as a writer are closer to Ibsen rather than Chekhov. I’m not really trying to isolate each character’s characteristics or perspectives. I’m more interested in the honest human nature that emerges through relationships.”

  • In his recent conversation with Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese still seems to be getting over the fact that he had to shoot parts of Mean Streets (1973), a quintessentially New York movie, in Los Angeles. Contrasting the cultures of the two coasts, Scorsese focuses on music. So, too, did writer Ian Penman (Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors) ten years ago in an article just republished by Sight and Sound. The “feel” of the Mean Streets soundtrack is “very much darkness at the edge of the 70s: a shadier, slicker, shriller city aesthetic than the currently revived/received notion of that time of tacky innocence,” wrote Penman. Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (1978), on the other hand, is “rock as grand narrative, a rock of ages, assembly rather than dissolution—the music is uniformly sturdy, worthy, rooted, historically respectful—whereas the culture of Mean Streets operates at a molecular level of collision, speed, exorbitance, severe shudders of perspective, sudden stops into gallows humor.”

  • The new Believer is out, and inside, there’s an interview with Nathaniel Dorsky. Composer Will Epstein was at his home in San Francisco earlier this year and was treated to private screenings of Dialogues (2022) and Place d’Or (2023). “They’re not films without sound,” says Dorsky, “they’re silent films. Which means the silence has to be palpable.” The conversation touches on Hitchcock, Renoir, painting, music, and nitrous gas. There’s also an unexpectedly engaging discussion of Dorsky’s sea glass collection and Crown Jewels of the Wire, a magazine devoted to ceramic insulators. “Shakespeare has a line from The Tempest about being older, where every third thought is of death,” Dorsky says at one point. “It’s such a great line. Dialogues feels a little like that feeling.”

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