Mean Streets (1973)
Martin Scorsese draws inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard in this thematic follow-up to Who's That Knocking at My Door. We're brought back to New York's Little Italy where small time crooks and gangsters try to find a way to enjoy life – or rather get by. It is a film filled with realism, which at times is stirring, but the unnarrative, dense tone makes it a strenuous experience, especially as Scorsese centres the film's conflict around a no-good character whom nobody really cares for (and understandably so). Harvey Keitel's is by far the film's most interesting character, and it is through him, in the more lenient scenes, that Mean Streets comes alive in its atmospheric portrait. Scorsese shows abundances of flair and technical resourcefulness, but the film is too tapered and laborious to really attract. There is no joy in front or behind the camera, and the film is more style than substance. Helped by Paul Schrader, Scorsese had a lot more to say with Taxi Driver three years later.