In the pantheon of gangster films, two in particular stand out above the rest: “The Godfather” (and its also-great sequels) and “Goodfellas.” And, in some respects, the films couldn’t be more different. But where it counts — quality, craftsmanship, and cinematic innovation — they couldn’t be more similar. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s film, the highly stylized nature of the central conceit is offset by the stark and gritty realism that abounds.
It’s a cocktail that could easily dismantle a movie. But in Scorsese’s hands, a new video essay from Storytellers explains the kinetic filmmaking, as perfectly exemplified by the Copacabana tracking shot, quite literally drives the movie. The 9-minute video essay, “‘Goodfellas’: Seduction In Kinetic Cinema,” explores the movement of Scorsese’s film, the way it’s centered upon its own propulsive motion, how cars symbolize this motion, and how, eventually, as all things must, Henry Hill’s life comes grinding to a halt.
The video also takes a look at how the film is almost structured like a documentary, with Hill acting as our guide through his own life, stopping and starting the action in key moments to add commentary. It’s an interesting choice that we’ve all seen fail dozens of times since “Goodfellas” came out a quarter of a century ago, but one that perfectly compliments Hill’s descent into greed and power, providing a rational commentary to a rise and fall that is as psychological as it is physical.
It’s a fascinating and fresh look at a movie that has been endlessly studied, and one that shines a light on some of the brilliance at work beneath the gorgeous, glossy surface. Though, if, for some ungodly reason you haven’t seen “Goodfellas,” be warned that *spoilers* do abound.
Check out the video and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.